Sen. Kane Votes for Middle-Class Energy Relief Plan

August 25, 2008

New Laws Expand Home Heating Assistance Programs, Tax Breaks for Conservation

Hartford, CT – In the face of skyrocketing fuel prices, State Senator Rob Kane (R-Watertown) voted for, and the General Assembly passed, a $44 million energy relief package Friday. The plan expands home heating assistance programs and energy conservation tax breaks for low and middle-income families and small businesses.

Senator Kane, who has scheduled public forums in Watertown and Seymour to discuss energy issues and the new legislation, said he will work to help as many people as possible qualify for assistance. “There is no escaping winter in New England, and this winter will be especially difficult because of the rising cost of home heating fuels. I believe Governor Rell and the legislature took appropriate action to help low and middle income families prepare for this challenge,” said Senator Kane.

The $44 million energy relief package includes:

* $8.5 million to Operation Fuel to help low income residents;
* $5 million to Operation Fuel for expanded eligibility for heating assistance;
* $7 million to conduct energy audits of homes;
* $6.5 million to help cover heating bills for public schools;
* $4 million to help income eligible elderly residents make payments on their utilities;
* $3.5 million to help human service and public health non-profits (daycares, homeless centers, etc.) cover heating expenses;
* $3 million to provide $500 rebates to families purchasing fuel efficient furnaces;
* $2 million to weatherize low income families households; and
* $2 million to increase eligibility and provide additional loans to families who make energy efficient improvements to their homes.

Under the new law, a family of four whose bank accounts and annual incomes total less than $94,000 may qualify to receive a one time benefit of up to $400 for heating their homes this winter. Families of four with incomes and bank accounts totaling less than $31,800 could receive a basic benefit of $635 under the Connecticut Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) and may qualify for additional help in an emergency.

The plan also established a $35 million reserve fund to further expand these programs if the legislature deems there is an emergency. Sen. Kane said that while he supports the $44 million specifically dedicated to expanding assistance programs and tax breaks, he opposes the $35 million reserve fund.

“We have done the right thing by dedicating part of our surplus to home heating assistance, but we need to be extremely careful with how we use the remaining $35 million. My preference would be not to use it at all. The State of Connecticut is projecting a budget deficit for 2009 that is approaching $200 million. If it were up to me, I would have placed the $35 million in the state’s Rainy Day Fund where there are greater financial controls and more oversight over its use.”

Sen. Kane also expressed disappointment over the legislatures repeated failure to cut and cap state gas taxes. Following passage of the energy assistance bill Friday, Republicans proposed suspending the rules in order to take up debate on cutting and capping state gas taxes; a measure Sen. Kane has supported throughout his term in office. The Republican proposal was defeated along party lines.

“Energy remains the number one issue affecting our economy and quality of life, and we need to address it in a comprehensive way. Just because gasoline prices have dipped of late, doesn’t mean people aren’t hurting. $3.77/gallon is still too much for gasoline, especially when prices are cheaper in all of Connecticut’s neighboring states,” said Senator Kane.

Sen. Kane is hosting an energy forum from 10am – 12pm Tuesday, August 26th, at the Watertown Senior Center located at 311 Falls Avenue in the Oakville section of Watertown; and from 10am – 12pm Wednesday, September 17th, at the Seymour Senior Center. For more information, contact Peggy Deschenes at the Senate Republican Office at 860-240-8884.