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Quinn turns to consumer poll to defend ComEd bill veto

Date: 
10/27/2011

From the Chicago Sun-Times, October 23, 2011:
 

Quinn turns to consumer poll to defend ComEd bill veto
 

By Mary Houlihan

Gov. Pat Quinn on Sunday reacted to an AARP-sponsored poll showing that nearly 7 in 10 Illinoisans oppose annual increases in their electric bills, even if they would improve reliability and prevent outages.

“We want our legislators to listen better to the voters, the consumers of Illinois, both families and businesses,” Quinn said. “It’s very, very important on the eve of a legislative session that’s going to concern some of the most important economic issues for years to come that we take a stand and win for the consumers.”

In September, Quinn vetoed a $2.6 billion bill that would have enabled Commonwealth Edison to lock in a 10.25 percent yearly profit rate (with no cap), part of which would be used to underwrite a roughly $1.5 billion modernization of its power grid.

An override battle begins this week as lawmakers return to Springfield. The legislation is being pushed by ComEd and the downstate utility, Ameren.

At a press conference at AARP’s downtown office, Quinn was joined by representatives of AARP and consumer advocate groups to stress the results of the poll.

“The poll clearly demonstrates consumer opposition to the bill,” said Bob Gallo, Illinois director for AARP. “We are sending a strong message to legislators. This bill is bad news for consumers and your constituents have made their voices heard.”

In the poll of 800 registered voters, 47 percent said the bill should be “amended to protect consumers,” while just 11 percent believed it should be approved.

“At a time when the public is out there in the streets, I cannot imagine that this legislature would side with a major utility company making record profits,” said William McNary, co-director of Citizen Action Illinois.

In a statement, ComEd dismissed the poll as “not a legitimate or credible survey” that was designed to “produce a pre-ordained result” with language that is “slanted with inaccurate and misleading information.” The company pointed to its own public-opinion polling that showed 76 percent favoring a modernization of Illinois’ electrical grid and 64 percent believing smart-grid technology has “potential to improve the reliability of electric service and reduce outages.”The company went on to say that the legislation Quinn vetoed “provides an array of benefits to Illinois in terms of job creation, economic development, environmental protections, consumer savings, regulatory reform and modern infrastructure. We look forward to working with members of the General Assembly to help make these benefits a reality.”

The polling firm defended its work, saying: “McKeon & Associates regularly does polling for media outlets — from Crain’s Chicago Business to the Chicago Sun-Times — and has conducted extensive polling on many issues for Commonwealth Edison for 25 years. The poll speaks for itself and presents nothing but the facts.”

For more information, consumers can call the AARP hotline at (800) 719-3020 or go to saynotoratehikes.org.

Consumers can also go to http://www.smartenergyil.com.