Water rates in Illinois are already too high, but private water companies are promoting a bill which would raise them even more. The bill, known as HB 4508, is a double-whammy: not only does it raise water rates for consumers across Illinois, it also makes it easier to privatize water systems. And at this point, the only one who can stop it is Governor Rauner.
HB 4508 is the extension of a 2013 law which lets private water companies raise water rates in one municipality and then use that money to fund the purchase of a water system in an entirely different town. This is absurd — if a private company wants to buy a town’s water system, the company should have to pay for it, not residents on the other side of the state! But under the 2013 law, ratepayers can be put on the hook for price increases that ultimately benefit private companies like Illinois American Water and Aqua Illinois.
The 2013 rule was set to expire, saving money for people across Illinois. But instead of letting that happen, lawmakers chose to extend the law by introducing HB 4508. But HB 4508 doesn’t just extend the 2013 law — it makes it worse by eliminating limits on the size of water systems that can be bought. Under HB 4508, companies can gobble up bigger and bigger water systems, requiring more and more rate increases for customers. This giveaway turns Illinoisans into ATMs for water corporations.
And HB 4508 doesn’t just raise rates, it also encourages water privatization: this is when a private company owns and operates a water system instead of the city managing their own water services. Evidence suggests that water privatization hurts consumers in numerous ways. Privatization limits public accountability and reduces transparency. And privatized water is often more expensive, because corporations are beholden to shareholders, not ratepayers. In fact, private water companies charge 20 to 70 percent more than public systems to Chicagoland households for the same amount of water. HB 4508 could affect people across Illinois. People using public water systems would run the risk of having their water privatized, and people on private systems could have their water rates raised at any time. The only ones to benefit from this open invitation into ratepayers’ pockets are private water companies.
The evidence is clear — we should be discouraging water system privatization, not expanding it. HB 4508 is the opposite of what Illinois needs.
HB 4508 has passed the Illinois legislature and is waiting on Governor Rauner’s desk. If he doesn’t veto it before August 7th, it will become law.
The fate of public water in Illinois is in jeopardy. It’s up to Governor Rauner to put Illinois families before corporate profits, but it’s up to people like you to demand that he does the right thing.