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Council Approves CU Rate Hikes, Supports Veto of House Bill 253

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Springfield leaders have approved a series of energy rate hikes at City Utilities. They've also thrown their weight behind Gov. Nixon's veto of House Bill 253.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Springfield leaders have approved a series of energy rate hikes at City Utilities. They've also thrown their weight behind Gov. Nixon's veto of House Bill 253.

The 2014 Annual Operating Budget (left) for City Utilities was passed unanimously Monday evening and will go into effect October 1, 2013.

Monday night, city leaders also approved that resolution (7-2) that includes three yearly electric rate increases (5.9 percent, 3.9 percent, and then 3.7 percent) beginning in October 2014. 

City Utilities Spokesman Joel Alexander says the increases are "designed to meet utility challenges including environmental regulations, transmission costs, new compliance requirements, and additional operational impacts."

However, council members were torn on the resolution.

"One out of five Springfield families live on $15,000 a year or less," Councilwoman Cindy Rushefsky quoted a study. "We know that poverty is very real in Springfield. I'm asking for a one-year reprieve -- an opportunity for more Springfield citizens to catch up and catch their breath."

Rushefsky says CU is capable of functioning for one year without the increase.

"CU has one of the lowest utility rates in our nation," added Mayor Bob Stephens. "We're not dependent on the grid out there, as a number of other communities are."

Also Monday evening, City Council unanimously approved a resolution granting a parade permit for the Rountree neighborhood on Halloween night. They also approved a resolution (8-1) to support Governor Nixon's veto of House Bill 253. The legislation, the governor says, would have threatened state funding for public schools. He vetoed it in June.

The SPS School Board passed a formal resolution earlier this summer making its position clear to state legislators.

In his six-page veto message, Nixon called the bill "an ill-conceived, fiscally irresponsible experiment that would inject far-reaching uncertainty into our economy, undermine our state's fiscal health, and jeopardize basic funding for education and vital, public services."

Republicans say the tax cut would make Missouri more competitive with Kansas, where taxes on businesses and individuals have been cut in recent years. Nixon says Kansas' tax rate is still higher than Missouri's, and says Kansas is now dealing with the results of its tax cut efforts.
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