* Governor signs electric rate relief despite displeasure with bill
Blagojevich spent almost a month reviewing the deal –which lawmakers approved at the end of July after lengthy negotiations — before signing the plan into law at the Downstate DuQuoin State Fair
“This bill is a good starting point,” Blagojevich said in a written statement.
Under the package, the average Chicago-area customer will see between a $50 and $60 service credit on their October bills, said Bob McDonald, ComEd’s senior vice president and chief financial officer.
The lump-sum credit will serve as a retroactive, partial-bill credit for service this year. The amount will vary depending on how much energy the customer used.
* Rate relief now a reality
The governor drew criticism by not immediately signing the bill into law when he received it nearly a month ago. Some feared his inaction could cost consumers millions of dollars in higher rates by negating the price of a contract Ameren had negotiated to buy power.
But Lisa Madigan spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler said consumers actually will save $17 million over several years compared to the original negotiated price because of fluctuations in recent weeks.
Blagojevich defended his long review, comparing himself to a careful customer standing up to pressure from a used-car dealer.
Negotiators are hopeful consumers see bigger benefits from moves made to keep prices as low as possible.
* Governor belated signs utility deal
But Blagojevich, who sat on the sidelines during the negotiations, angered lawmakers by announcing that he would take up to 60 days to review the bill. He said he thought he might be able to persuade the power companies to sweeten the deal, despite warnings from the attorney general’s office that any delays could lead to higher bills.
“After reviewing it, I believe it will provide immediate relief and put us in a position to keep working on longer-term electricity issues that need to be addressed to ensure that electricity in Illinois is affordable,” Blagojevich said in a statement.
State Rep. George Scully (D-Flossmoor), the House’s lead utility negotiator, said he was happy the governor signed the bill. “But it’s very unfortunate that he forced the people of Illinois to wait another month to get rate relief,” Scully said.
* Electric rate relief now a done deal
“The only thing the governor’s delay produced is a delay in when residents get the relief to which they are entitled,” state Rep. Dan Beiser, D-Alton, said in a statement, echoing a common complaint lately among downstate legislators whose constituents were hardest hit by the rate hikes.
Blagojevich, flanked by lawmakers and consumer advocates Tuesday, defended his decision not to sign the bill right away.
“Beware when these big companies are pressing you to sign on the dotted line before you’ve had a chance to (study) … a bill as complicated and as thick as the one you just saw me sign,” Blagojevich said. “When you get a big company like Ameren that’s treated customers the way they have, I think it’s prudent to be suspicious of their motives.”
* Ameren checks expected to arrive in September