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Quinn Handed a Defeat in "Smart Grid" Battle

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As supporters try to override his veto, Gov. Pat Quinn says there's "no way to put perfume on this skunk."

Gov. Pat Quinn dished out sound bite after sound bite Tuesday when he spoke about his opposition to legislation that would raise electricity rates and modernize Illinois' power grid.

There's "no way to put perfume on this skunk," said Quinn, saying that changes made to the bill are a "hasty effort to paper over bad bill."

Still, his straight talk seemed to fall on some deaf ears. The Illinois Senate voted 37-20 for a so-called "trailer bill" -- an amendment to HB3036 -- that would tweak a plan to let power companies raise rates so they can make improvements, including the creation of a high-tech "smart grid." 

Approving the changes is meant to win over the extra votes needed to reverse Quinn's veto of the underlying plan. The governor said the rate increase that would come with the legislation was too much for Illinois families.

That sentiment was echoed Tuesday by demonstrators who said any rate increase is too much, especially for those on fixed incomes or the unemployed caught in the crosshairs of the struggling economy.

"Companies are making more and more money and we're working our butts off to make stuff and can't even do anything," said one protestor.

The changes in the trailer bill include lowering the profit rate guaranteed to utilities, toughening the performance standards they must meet and increasing the amount of money they must spend to improve basic infrastructure.

If everyone who voted for the trailer bill supports the underlying plan when it comes up, Quinn's veto would be overridden in the Senate.

The measure's fate would then depend on the House, unfriendly territory for Quinn right now.

Quinn said there are "legislators with three loaves of bread under their arms" -- meaning ComEd campaign donations -- and said he will work with Attorney General Lisa Madigan, AARP and other groups to block the legislation.

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