State Sen. John Curran (R-Downers Grove), the Citizens Utility Board (CUB) and other suburban lawmakers gathered to urge Gov. Bruce Rauner to veto legislation that makes it easier for large, private water companies to buy municipal water systems at the expense of Illinois taxpayers.
At a press conference held in Homer Glen, Curran and CUB warned that enacting House Bill 4508 would place too much power into the hands of American Water and Aqua Illinois, giving them the ability to impose automatic rate hikes to bankroll the purchase of water systems.
“The difference between what public and private utility water customers pay is alarming in this state,” Curran said in the news conference. “We frequently discuss our high property taxes, and residents being taxed out of their home. In Homer Glen, I have heard resounding complaints from individuals I represent that water bills are another barrier for home ownership here. They can’t afford the monthly freight—with the large disparity separating public and private water systems.”
Under HB 4508, the companies can automatically raise their existing customers’ rates to fund municipal acquisitions—by 2.5 percent for one acquisition, or a total of 5 percent for multiple acquisitions. While similar legislation has passed through the General Assembly, House Bill 4508 is more damaging because it removes a 7,500-connection cap on the size of systems that the water companies can buy.
Despite strong opposition from Curran, House Bill 4508 passed the Senate; however, it failed to get a veto-proof majority in the House. The Governor has the opportunity to veto the bill within a 60-day time window.
“We want Gov. Rauner to know that this bill is bad news for Illinois American Water and Aqua Illinois customers, as well as any communities in their path,” CUB Director of Governmental Affairs Bryan McDaniel said. “It allows two profit-hungry private water companies to expand at a pace heretofore unseen in Illinois.”
The parent companies of Aqua and Illinois American made a combined profit of $150 million in the first quarter of 2018 alone. A Chicago Tribune investigation last year found that those private companies charged 20 to 70 percent more than public systems in the region.
“Illinois residents shouldn’t be an unforeseen casualty in these water acquisitions,” said Curran. “I urge Governor Rauner to veto the bill as soon as possible, and make steps to address the unjust gap in water prices.”
For more information, please contact Senator Curran at senatorcurran.com or CUB at citizensutilityboard.com.