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EDITORIAL IT IS A BAILOUT THE STATE IS GOING INTO THE BUSINESS OF BUYING AND SELLING POWER, AND IT'S ALLOWING THE TAXPAYERS TO BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR THE BILL.

THE government of the state of California and private utilities bungled deregulation of electric service and now they are sticking the people with the bill.

And their cure for the energy crisis they caused may be worse than the problems we have today.

This is government at its worst and Gov. Gray Davis and state lawmakers - Democrats and Republicans alike - bear the responsibility.

They are bankrupt, paralyzed by their pattern and practice of putting politics first and people and policy last.

Yet, they have the audacity to repeat as mantra over and over: ``This is not a bailout.''

And now, lawmakers and Davis want ratepayers to shoulder the entire burden and all the pain of keeping Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric in business.

They are taking a gigantic gamble that in a year or so energy rates will fall so low that the bonds can be paid off, the utilities pay their debts and everybody have enough power to live happily ever after.

What if it doesn't work?

In theory, customers of SoCal Edison and PG&E will be on the hook for $12 billion of the utilities' debt and $10 billion in state debt, and the Legislature will be looking to find a way to stick taxpayers statewide with the bill.

The actual job of determining how big the rate increase will be for customers of the private utilities is left to the Public Utilities Commission. After all, from a political standpoint, it's much better that appointed commissioners face the public's wrath than politicians who could lose their lucrative, self-aggrandizing jobs.

How dumb do they think we are?

This is a bailout. Pure and simple.

The state is going into the business of buying and selling power. And it's doing so by leaving the utilities to only supply the power they generate at relatively low cost while taking on the high-risk portion that now costs four times as much to buy as customers pay for it.

The result is the utilities get big profits without risk to pay off their debt and avoid bankruptcy. The ratepayers get the risk of high rates if energy prices don't fall.

For the moment, the people of Los Angeles, Burbank and Glendale who have paid dearly over the years to maintain our own municipal power utilities are off the hook. The $500 million in tax money that has been spent and the $1 billion still to be spent to keep the lights on in this crisis is supposed to be repaid to the general fund out of the $10 billion in bonds authorized Thursday.

Do not lay all the blame on the Democrats. The Republicans stalled approval of the bailout because they wanted blanket immunity from accountability for it from Davis. Whatever happened to the GOP ethic of taking personal responsibility?

And Republicans like Assemblyman Dennis Mountjoy, whose Monrovia district is served by SoCal Edison, wanted to make taxpayers statewide shoulder the entire burden of extra energy costs for the next decade.

Mountjoy got one thing right when he said: ``The people are not to blame.''

No, they aren't.

The politicians are. We suggest they start trimming their own bloated paychecks, their own bloated perks and staffs and the bloat throughout state government.

That way neither taxpayers nor ratepayers would be ripped off to cover up the bungling by their state government.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Feb 2, 2001
Words:561
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