Nevada and many other states were well on the way to breaking up the electricity monopolies 15 years ago until the Enron market manipulation debacle that led to blackouts and price spikes scared lawmakers off. A free market was not the problem, it was criminal collusion and fraud.
Now, Nevadans have another chance to let free markets set the price of electricity instead of monopoly power companies and public utility regulators.
Question 3 on the statewide November ballot, if passed, would start the process of amending the state Constitution to prohibit granting electricity monopolies or exclusive franchises.
The argument for passage of Question 3 — the Energy Choice Initiative — points out that Nevada has some of the highest electricity rates in the West, this is partly due to the fact electricity rates are dictated by the Public Utilities Commission, which by law must guarantee a profit for the monopoly utility companies. This is determined by setting a rate of return on equity, which incentivizes the power companies in the state to build expensive power plants when cheaper power might be available on the grid in an open and free market. There is no competitive pressure. There is little incentive to innovate.
Though the backers of Question 3 tout the potential of renewable energy development, the real benefit of passage is competition and innovation to achieve the most efficient and cost-effective power supply, whatever drives the generators.
Yes, Question 3 is supported by the large corporations and casinos who would benefit from buying cheaper electricity on the open market instead of from the monopoly NV Energy owned by billionaire Warrant Buffet, but residential customers also should benefit in the long run. Data from states that have adopted energy choice reveal a nearly 20 percent cost savings for consumers.
This newspaper endorses passage of Question 3.
Question 4 on the November ballot would also amend the state Constitution. Approval would require the Legislature to exempt durable medical equipment, oxygen delivery equipment, and mobility enhancing equipment from any sales or property taxes.
This would not only reduce the cost for those who require the equipment but also for all of us in the insurance pool who bear the cost.
We recommend a vote in favor of Question 4.
In each county in November the voters will be asked whether to index the tax on vehicle fuel to inflation with all resulting additional revenue going to build and repair roads specifically in those counties.
The 2015 Legislature allowed all counties to put a fuel tax indexing question on the ballot. This would allow the existing tax per gallon to increase at the same rate as the Producer Price Index, but with a cap of 7.8 percent per gallon. Some counties may choose a lower cap.
In this case the taxpayer-road user has a clear benefit in return for the outlay and thus a rare real return on investment. We think the voters would be wise to approve this tax. — TM