To the Editor,
Future water rates – and how much they will increase throughout the state – now depend on how Illinois Senators vote on House Bill 4508.
This legislation, which passed the House, is a bad deal for water customers, as it would make it much easier for a private company to purchase public water systems and dramatically increase customer rates. As written, House Bill 4508 allows for only two companies, American Water and Aqua Water, to buy municipalities’ water systems at an over-inflated cost. That cost would then be passed directly to ratepayers.
This legislation offers a blank check for the companies to use ratepayers to expand their own company footprint throughout Illinois. There are no protections for new customers from seeing a large rate increase.
In 2016, American Water increased water rates on their customers in their Chicago Metro region, which includes Will and Grundy counties, by nearly 42 percent. In 2009, ratepayers received a 26 percent increase. Yes, infrastructure upgrades are needed and delivery costs do go up, but increasing rates on customers by 42 percent is out of control. Most families experience sticker shock when they open up their water bills.
Several years ago, we saw Bolingbrook, Homer Glen, Lemont, Romeoville, and Woodridge essentially go to war with American Water, filing a lawsuit to take back control of their water system in the area. The main reason? Preventing American Water from continuing their non-stop water rate hikes on customers.
What customers really need is a real, hard cap on future rate increases for all ratepayers affected, stricter oversight by the Illinois Commerce Commission, and the ability for local voters to have a voice by referendum before their water systems are sold to a private company.
With an income tax increase last year combined with the second highest property taxes in the nation, it’s imperative we do not add House Bill 4508 (as written) to the mix that hurts families and will only add to the mass exodus from our state.
I urge readers to reach out to their State Senator and tell them to vote “no” on House Bill 4508.
State Sen. Sue Rezin is an Assistant Republican Leader in the Illinois Senate and the Minority Spokesperson for the Senate Energy Committee. She represents Bureau, Grundy, LaSalle, Kendall, Livingston, Putnam, and Will counties