St. Louis Public Radio News
10:01 am
Thu June 12, 2003

Blagojevich Defends Signing SBC Legislation

Springfield, ILL – Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is defending his decision to sign legislation into law that allows SBC raise rates it charges to phone competitors to use its lines.

Blagojevich says a judge's recent ruling to set aside those rate increases doesn't deter him. "In terms of the goal, to make what I believe is a more competitive environment here for telecommunications, which will help the consumer and keep jobs and help create more jobs, the decision to sign the bill was clearly the right thing to do," Blagojevich said Wednesday.

The Lieutenant Governor, Democrat Pat Quinn, lauded the judge's decision Wednesday. He called it a victory for Illinois consumers.

Blagojevich said it will be up to the telecommunications companies to battle it out in court and maybe even again in Springfield.

The Illinois Legislature passed a bill in May instructing state regulators to increase the rates SBC can charge competitors for using its local phone lines.

Within hours of the Illinois Commerce Commission voting for the increase Monday, U.S. District Judge Charles P. Kocoras issued a temporary restraining order against it. He ruled that the company's appeal to legislators for action on rates was contrary to federal law.

SBC said the bill would help protect the jobs of its 21,000 employees in Illinois. Rivals AT&T and MCI, which said SBC wanted to nearly double what it charges them, say they serve about 600,000 Illinois telephone customers and the rate increase would force them to pass the cost on to those customers.

SBC successfully pushed the bill through the Democrat-controlled Legislature in just four days on the strength of a phalanx of lobbyists with powerful ties and organized labor. SBC is run by William Daley, brother of powerful Democratic Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.

Critics said Wednesday they were vindicated by the judge's decision. Quinn urged state regulators to reject an appeal of the decision.

Blagojevich said the courts will decide whether the method of the rate increase was appropriate.