Why I voted no on the Exelon bill

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Dec 2, 2016 Comments Off on Why I voted no on the Exelon bill Jon
Over the last few weeks, there has been a great deal of energy and effort put into a bill that has been discussed for the last couple of years in Springfield to prevent the closure of 2 nuclear power plants owned by Exelon. The plants are losing money, although Exelon remains incredibly profitable.

The bill has undergone many changes and included many things that would have been easy to support. Having worked for several years to fix the state’s renewable portfolio standard to spur investment in renewable energy sources that have stagnated under the flawed system, I want to see this portion of the bill enacted into law.

Environmental advocates were strongly in support of the final version of the bill as it includes the RPS fix as well as significant investments in energy efficiency. I was an original cosponsor of the Clean Jobs Bill and believe strongly in the importance of these policies. The bill passed, including the renewable energy provisions. I will remain focused on ensuring that they are implemented as intended and watch for efforts to weaken the provisions.

Over the last several weeks, I have heard from many constituents about the bill. The complexity of the negotiations and the repeated changes to the bill has caused significant confusion for many people. In reviewing the constituent correspondence on the bill, it became clear that many people had contacted us multiple times taking different positions on the bill. This is not at all surprising given the sweeping nature of the package of issues included in the bill and the broad array of interest groups weighing in repeatedly. It was not unusual to see multiple emails in a single day from constituents who are involved in multiple organizations. Since each group had its own way of referring to the bill, it’s not surprising that someone might think they were weighing in on different pieces of legislation.

At its core, however, this bill is a corporate bailout. Since coming into the General Assembly, I have voted against bailouts for Sears, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and other ComEd rate increase bills. Just because this particular corporate bailout includes things that I support and very much want to see enacted into law doesn’t change my fundamental opposition to asking the people I represent to subsidize a hugely profitable corporate interest through a massive rate hike. This is especially true right now while our social service providers are struggling to keep the doors open and provide services to the most vulnerable people in our communities. The National Association of Social Workers made an excellent case for a “bailout” for these providers, and I agree.

The process that led to this package involved intense bipartisan negotiations over the last several weeks. I cannot help but think that the same level of investment of energy and time would finally result in a real budget for our state. Instead of addressing the fact that the stopgap-spending plan we passed earlier this summer that expires at the end of December, we are leaving Springfield with no session days scheduled before the end of the year and the end of the current spending plan.  We are scheduled to return to Springfield on January 9th, allowing two days of possible work prior to the new General Assembly’s swearing in. I remain hopeful that we can find a path to a balanced and humane budget that puts people before politics and personalities. The Governor and the Speaker need to put aside the posturing and get a budget done. I remain ready to work towards that goal with any member regardless of party who wants to join me.