is the President and CEO of the California Chamber of Commerce. For more, visit Fox & Hounds Daily.

You have no doubt already been made aware that at the state level, California is already burdened by record debt and we, again, face a 20 billion dollar annual deficit this year.

At the local level, budgets are being slashed, with critical services from public safety to public works to parks being cut. The bottom line is: California’s state and local governments cannot make ends meet.

Yet, at the same time, some local leaders are working to have their communities commit hundreds of millions of public dollars or debt to push out privately run electricity businesses and get government into the retail electricity business. And, even in these tough economic times, they don’t want taxpayers to vote on it because current law does not require a vote.

Proposition 16 – the Taxpayers Right to Vote Act would simply require that voters have the final say if a local government chooses to spend public money or incur public debt to create a government-run electricity business. Like most other local special tax and bond decisions in California, a 2/3 vote would be required.

Requiring a vote will ensure that the complicated and risky choice to create a government-run electricity business gets the public discussion it deserves. These are long-term deals that can commit generations to hundreds of millions of dollars of debt. And to pay for them, more cuts in local programs might be required or, perhaps, even new taxes or fees. The voters need to be allowed to weigh the promises of benefits versus the real risks and costs of failure.

Opponents of Proposition 16 are attempting to spread a campaign of misinformation, claiming that Proposition 16 could require an election before a new subdivision, or even a single home, could be served with electricity if it is located within the territory of an existing local publicly owned utility. But don’t be fooled — Proposition 16 specifically exempts situations where publicly owned utilities extend service to new customers located within their exclusive geographic territories. This is confirmed by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s analysis of Proposition 16, and by the measure’s own findings and declarations. Moreover, the opponents’ argument is based on an absurd, almost laughable, interpretation that no court would ever accept.

We need local government to look for the best ways to serve our communities. When it comes to making a long-term commitment of millions of public dollars, we must protect our right to have a say. This June election, we have that opportunity. Proposition 16 will let us, the voters, decide.