Newsom Faces Criticism Over Bill Proposal
After years of escalating electricity rates in California, Governor Gavin Newsom is facing heat for a new state law that will require utility companies to implement an income-based billing system.
The law aims to stabilize rates and make billing more “equitable,” but it has caused public and political opposition within the Democratic coalition. Some have even likened it to Marxism, with its emphasis on a fair distribution of resources based on income.
The law was first reported in April 2023 and sparked immediate controversy. Newsom’s commitment to the income-based plan was met with backlash from constituents and fellow Democrats alike. Assemblyman Marc Berman voiced the frustration of many Californians, stating that “their rates keep going up” and they are “fed up” with the continuous price hikes.
Newsom’s spokesman responded on Tuesday, saying that he is eagerly anticipating the final proposal from the state’s utility commission, which is responsible for devising the income-based billing system. The governor’s office maintains that the plan is necessary for the fight against climate change, as California works towards using clean electricity in vehicles and buildings while providing more affordability for low-income residents.
Despite this justification, not all Democratic lawmakers are on board with the plan. Some have come out in opposition, citing concerns over the added burden it will place on already struggling Californians. Tenants’ advocates worry that this new system will further increase living costs for renters, while environmental groups and supporters of solar energy are also speaking out against it.
This rare division among the Democratic supermajority hints at a growing discontent with California’s energy policies. While a majority of Californians have previously stated that they believe environmental regulations are worth the cost, they may have reached their limit as electricity rates in the state have risen almost 70% since 2010. In fact, California households pay almost 83% more than the average for homes in the rest of the United States.
The utility commission has yet to determine the specifics of the income-based billing system, but their initial proposal was met with public outrage. Utility companies suggested that low-income households would only pay $15 per month, while those in higher income brackets could pay up to $128 per month, in addition to usage fees. However, they quickly backtracked after facing fierce criticism.
Jenn Engstrom, the state director of the California Public Interest Research Group, which opposes the income-based fee system, argues that it will ultimately hurt those who are committed to energy conservation and efficiency. She also warns that incentivizing high energy consumption could lead to increased costs for everyone in the long run.
Terrie Prosper, director of news and outreach for the state’s utility commission, defends the plan, stating that it is a “critical step toward our climate goals.” She argues that the income-based billing system will benefit owners of electric vehicles, who will end up paying less to charge their cars. However, with public and political opposition continuing to grow, it remains to be seen how this new system will ultimately play out for the people of California.