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As we approach the final week of the Illinois General Assembly’s veto session, all eyes are focused on the fate of energy legislation that is being debated around the state. For business leaders, securing competitive electric rates essential to the operation of our businesses is paramount. For that reason, we believe that the Illinois General Assembly should pass the Future Energy Jobs Bill (SB 2814) and Gov. Bruce Rauner should sign it into law.
Illinois businesses, as well as consumers, will without a doubt see their electric bills rise as a result of the closure of the Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear plants. These plants contribute $1.2 billion to Illinois’ GDP and provide for 4,200 jobs, but of equal concern, their loss would drive up electric rates by a minimum of $364 million per year and have an environmental impact of $1.1 billion annually. This is a major concern for businesses that depend on the competitive electric rates that are one of the few clear competitive advantages Illinois enjoys over neighboring states.
While some groups have been critical of the bill, a number of those concerns, the most controversial, have been addressed in recently announced changes to the legislation, including an assurance that the legislation will ensure that Clinton and Quad Cities remain open for at least 10 years. Attempts to reach consensus on a few remaining issues continue and there appears to be strong momentum towards legislative consideration before it is too late.
As an historical aside, we find it interesting that many of the same opponents opposed deregulation in 1997 but now credit it as the single greatest economic advantage Illinois enjoys. Then, as now, Illinois cannot afford to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. The consequences of inaction are too great — electric rates will go up, jobs and tax contributions will be lost — and the benefits of the nuclear provision of the bill alone so far outweigh the costs, by an estimated 8 to 1, that we in the business community would be remiss to withhold our support for it.
We encourage legislators and Gov. Rauner to act during the remaining days of the veto session to preserve the competitive rates that our businesses depend upon.
Rob Karr is president and CEO of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association and Omar Duque is president and CEO of the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
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