LI lawmakers on privatizing LIPA: Not so fast

Cuomo wants to

Cuomo wants to "abolish" LIPA, but some legislators say rates for Long Islanders could spike by as much as 20 percent if a private utility swoops in.

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ALBANY - Gov. Andrew Cuomo drew cheers from the crowd yesterday when he said in his State of the State speech that the Long Island Power Authority should be replaced with a private company, but some lawmakers here on Long Island say such a move comes with big risks.

Legislators say LIPA has cheap debt right now because it's a government agency. If it was replaced by a private utility, rates for Long Islanders could spike 20 percent, by some estimates.

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Some lawmakers suggest that the best of both worlds would be a public agency, eligible for low-interest loans, that runs as efficiently as a private company. They say the utility should be able to handle everything from the day-to-day power to major storms.

Cuomo says he'd like to see LIPA in private hands with a no-rate hike guarantee for several years, but skeptics wonder if that's possible. There could be a clearer solution in two weeks, when the governor presents his budget to the state Legislature.

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