Arizona’s oldest citizens cannot afford Prop. 127

Non-profit agencies that help Arizona’s neediest older citizens say they are seeing an increase in requests for assistance. A renewable energy initiative that is projected to raise electric bills is a financial burden they cannot afford, they said. The American Association of Retired Persons also is voicing concerns for its 900,000 members in Arizona.

“We just came out of a very tough economic period and there is a larger, disproportionate number of folks who have not retired well and have not had the resources needed to make that happen,” said R. Tony Penn, president and CEO of United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona that opposes the initiative, called Proposition 127. “We’re very concerned about it.”

United Way of Northern and Southern Arizona are among numerous non-profit agencies opposing the initiative on the general election ballot because of its potential harm to populations like the elderly on low- and fixed-incomes. If approved by voters, the initiative would change the state constitution to require electric utilities to provide 50 percent of their power, “irrespective of cost to consumers,” from renewable energy by 2030. Currently, utilities are required to provide 15 percent by 2025. The initiative also mandates how much of each power source must be used including 10 percent from rooftop solar. It leaves no flexibility or consideration of the cost to ratepayers or utilities, opponents said.

Mark Clark, president and CEO of the Pima Council on Aging, said its clients already are parched financially. About 10 percent of elderly Pima County residents live at or below poverty level, he said.

“We’re seeing an increased number of older adults coming to us asking for assistance with utility bills, food, rent and other financial emergencies and, at this point, we have waiting lists to see our advocates,” Clark said. “Based upon estimates from the Arizona Residential Utility Consumer Office (RUCO), those living at that income level could see 3.7 percent more of their annual income go to an increase in utility bills, a very difficult financial burden.”  

AARP, a nonprofit, members-only organization with 900,000 members in Arizona, just published a list of concerns about the ballot initiative in Arizona.

“We do favor cost effective efforts to increase the percentage from renewable energy,” the AARP statement says. “However, we want to make sure additionally mandated renewable energy is affordable and useful to ratepayers.”

Here are some of the concerns listed and excerpts from the AARP statement:

  • Electric bills will rise RUCO concludes cost increases for Arizona Public Service residential customers would be as high as $52 per month while Tucson Electric Power customers could face up to a $37 a month bill increase by 2030.
  • The Arizona Corporation is best suited to decide utility issues Such a technical matter would be properly handled before the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) which has experts that can properly look into the claims of both sides. The commission does have the flexibility to order resource mix changes if needed.
  • This does not belong in the constitution AARP says this is an overreach and causes real concern.

More than 100 diverse organizations and 300 elected officials have joined to oppose the initiative for similar reasons, including elected officials in communities with large elderly populations.

“This would would have a huge negative impact on our senior citizen population,” said the mayor of Youngtown, Michael LeVault. “This amendment to our constitution would effectively usurp a lot of the authority the corporation commission has and require hundreds of millions of dollars of new investment. I really think it would be ruinous to our economy.”

Victoria Harker

Add comment

Subscribe to the Dry Heat

Get updates on the most important news delivered right to your email. Fully personalized options. No SPAM. Unsubscribe anytime.

Sign Me Up!

Let’s Get Social

Chamber Business News wants to connect with you. Follow us, tweet, share, post, comment... however you get social is the perfect way to connect.