Gov. Pat Quinn headed downstate Thursday to defend his veto of smart grid legislation backed by Commonwealth Edison, urging lawmakers to reject any attempts to reverse his decision.
Quinn’s plea came as lawmakers prepare to return to Springfield at the end of the month. Sponsors of the measure have vowed to override the veto.
The governor argues the proposal would allow the utility company to hike rates as it sees fit, while supporters say the bill is needed to overhaul an antiquated electric grid.
“We’re on the eve of one of the biggest consumer battles in Illinois in the last generation,” Quinn said at a stop in Peoria. “It’s important to understand what this bill is about. It’s an effort to use what’s called smart grid as a smoke screen to get a situation where the utility companies would not have the oversight that they’ve had for the last 100 years.”
Quinn used his four-city fly-around to turn up the populist rhetoric he’s long been known for, noting he’s fought against utility companies since founding the Citizens Utility Board in 1983.
Quinn warned that those opposed to rate hikes must reach out to their lawmakers, saying utility companies have “a lot of campaign money, they have a lot of lobbyists.”
“That’s why we want to alert the people of Illinois that this is a fight worth having,” Quinn said.
Sponsoring Sen. Mike Jacobs predicted he will be able to rustle up enough votes to override Quinn’s veto. It won’t be easy, however. The proposal passed the legislature with 31 votes in the Senate, but it would take 36 votes to overturn the veto. In the House, the measure passed with 67 votes, and 71 would be needed for an override.
Jacobs contends Quinn is so anti-utility that he can’t see the benefits of the legislation, such as investing in infrastructure to prevent outages, and being able to more easily pinpoint outages and fix them. Jacobs also questioned Quinn’s use of a taxpayer-funded plane, saying it doesn’t jive with Quinn’s consumer-protection message.
“Illinois needs this, and if doesn’t think so, he’s wrong,” said Jacobs, D-East Moline. “It moves Illinois forward. You can’t operate in a new world on technology that was built in the 1890s.”
House sponsor Rep. Kevin McCarthy also said he’s also confident he’ll have enough votes to override the veto. McCarthy said any rate hikes would be regulated, arguing utilities should be entitled to a “justifiable return” in exchange for bringing electricity delivery into the modern age.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said McCarthy, D-Orland Park. “And I think most of the members know that.”Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times