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Consumers Send Clear Message to Legislators: No to Rate Hike Bill


From the PR Newswire, October 23, 2011:

Consumers Send Clear Message to Legislators: No to Rate Hike Bill

Majority of Illinoisans Oppose Annual Rate Increases, Warn Legislators They Wouldn't Vote for them if they raise their Bills

CHICAGO, Oct. 23, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- With the clock ticking towards the start of the legislative veto session in Springfield, Illinois consumers today sent a simple but clear message to lawmakers: No to Senate Bill 1652, ComEd and Ameren's annual utility rate hike legislation. The bill, which was vetoed by Governor Pat Quinn in September, is due back to legislators next week and consumers will reach out to their elected representatives to ensure the Governor's veto stands in both chambers.

To strengthen their message, consumer advocacy groups led by AARP joined with Governor Quinn, as well as with representatives from the Attorney General's office and leaders of the business community in Chicago, to unveil the results of a statewide telephone poll.

The poll of 800 registered voters, conducted by AARP and other concerned groups, found that nearly 7 in 10 Illinoisans oppose annual increases in their electric bills, even if they would improve reliability and prevent outages. Additionally, more than half of those polled (52 percent) stated that they wouldn't vote for a legislator who allows electric utilities to raise their rates annually.

"Consumers have expressed themselves very clearly: they do not want automated rate increases, and they believe their electric bill is already too high," said AARP Illinois State Director Bob Gallo. "We are asking our 1.7 million members, and all Illinoisans, to hold legislators accountable on this critical issue and urge their legislator to uphold the Governor's veto."

"When I vetoed this bill, I said consumers can't be expected to foot the bill for executive bonuses and lobbyists fees with massive rate hikes that don't do anything to improve Illinois' power grid. Before even considering rate hikes, we need to make sure consumers are getting the quality service they already pay for," Governor Quinn said. "More than 1.5 million people and businesses have had to deal with power outages and service disruptions this summer, and now these same utilities are trying to change the rules to guarantee themselves annual rate increases, while eliminating any real accountability. I'm not buying what they're selling and ratepayers agree."

"Consumers deserve—and are willing to pay for—reliable service, but until they get it, they won't support automatic profits for ComEd and Ameren," Attorney General Lisa Madigan said.

"Businesses throughout Illinois have fought hard to develop a competitive energy market," said Steve Longhta, who represents the Illinois Industrial Energy Consumers. "The passage of Senate Bill 1652 would move Illinois backwards by setting utility costs and dictating a utility's earnings in state statute." The Illinois Industrial Energy Consumers consists of more than 30 of Illinois' largest manufacturers who support decisions that are good for business in matters involving electric, natural gas and water service operations.

"Call it what you want, the bottom line is that SB1652 is a bad deal for Illinois consumers as it will significantly raise electric rates at a time when individuals and families are still struggling to afford basic necessities," said William McNary, Co-Director for Citizen Action. "We need consumers to stand up, and urge their legislators to uphold Governor Quinn's veto."

The statewide poll also found that:

    * 81 percent responded that they believe utility donations had influence over legislators who voted for SB1652;
    * 70 percent already believe their electric system is reliable;
    * 50 percent think their electric bill is too high;
    * 47 percent responded that the bill should be amended to protect consumers AND an additional 26 percent responded, without being prompted, that the legislature should not "pass anything";
    * Only 10 percent responded "State Legislature" when asked between the State Legislature and the ICC which group do they believe "would best represent your interests in regulating electric utilities."

AARP is urging individuals to call toll-free 1-800-719-3020 and urge their legislators to vote "NO" on SB1652. For additional information, go to: