On LIPA overhaul plan, Cuomo seeks business support

In this file photo, Gov. Andrew Cuomo listens In this file photo, Gov. Andrew Cuomo listens as Ray Halbritter of the Oneida Indian Nation speaks during a news conference in Albany. (May 16, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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The Cuomo administration is trying to generate support for its plan to overhaul the Long Island Power Authority by getting business groups to sign on to a letter it is circulating.

The letter underscores the administration's rush to get the state legislature to back LIPA reorganization -- and do so in the next few weeks.

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"For years, LIPA has not worked for Long Island's business community," the form letter states. "We support the Governor's proposal and ask the state legislature to take swift action to pass the legislation this session so that our local businesses can finally have a utility that is based on performance and accountability."

The letter, from a representative of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, touts other groups that will sign on and asks the recipient: "May we list [you] as a supportive group?"

Cuomo has been calling for a LIPA overhaul since superstorm Sandy hit this past fall. He originally called for privatizing the utility, but modified his plans in the wake of opposition. He unveiled a new plan last week that would: shrink LIPA from about 100 current employees to 20 to 30, and allow it to exist only as a financial holding company with no day-to-day grid management; allow the state to privatize operations and planning decisions of the Long Island grid; refinance LIPA's current debt; and freeze customer rates for three years.

The governor wants lawmakers to approve a plan before the legislative session is adjourned, slated for June 20.

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Long Island lawmakers have said the plan provides a good framework but have said many questions remain regarding future rates for consumers, LIPA's $7 billion debt and the impact of LIPA property tax assessments on ratepayers and local school districts. Some lawmakers and business groups have expressed a desire for public hearings before any plan is accepted.

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