Quinn: Smart 'Greed' Bill a 'bum deal' for Illinois

October 26, 2011 4:39:01 AM PDT
Gov. Pat Quinn calls a bill that would raise power rates to pay for infrastructure improvements a bum deal for Illinois residents.

Quinn and some lawmakers have been at odds over the legislation. On Tuesday, the Illinois Senate approved changes to the bill that Quinn had vetoed. But Quinn said those changes haven't changed his opposition to the legislation.

"Raising utility rates and giving a guaranteed rate of return to these big utilities is a bum deal," Quinn said.

The governor said Illinois utility companies including ComEd are trying to ram the so-called Smart Grid Bill down the throats of rate payers. He accused the companies of using lobbyists and money to convince a majority of state lawmakers to vote yes.

"We have some legislators who have three loaves of bread under each arm, all the campaign donations they've got the public interest," Gov. Quinn said.

"I don't know if I got any contributions from them last spring. I do know we gotta do something about the technology," Rep. Karen Yarbrough, (D) Maywood, said.

Last spring, both chambers passed Senate Bill 1652, which allows electric utilities to maintain their profit margins as they modernize their delivery systems. The governor and Attorney General Lisa Madigan say the utilities could raise rates without having to go before regulatory commissions and could gouge Illinois consumers. The state's AFL-CIO supports the Smart Grid Bill for the nearly 2,500 jobs its sponsors promise.

"Senate Bill 1652 is a jobs bill. I've got unemployed electricians, linemen who need jobs," Charles Yancey, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said.

Outside the capitol, seniors marched and accused lawmakers of selling out to ComEd.

"We want them to know that when they come home, they may be staying home, especially in this particular situation for ComEd's rate increase," Rev. David Bigsby, AARP, said.

Lawmakers will need a three fifths majority in both chambers to override the governor's veto. He has not offered any middle ground saying the general assembly could do better using models from other states:

"Utilities all across the country are investing in better technology on a smart grid bill, not a smart greed bill. That's what we're dealing with here in Illinois., a smart greed bill," Quinn said.

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