April 25, 2014

Heated debate over spending state money on Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program

There’s been an opening skirmish in what may be a drawn-out battle at the statehouse over commiting $1 million in state taxpayers’ money to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, known as LIHEAP.

Democrats on a budget panel today moved to dedicate a million dollars in state money to the program. Senator Liz Mathis, a Democrat from Robbins, says it’s time for urgent action “because we’re seeing an increase in requests for help with propane.”

But Republicans like Representative Ralph Watts of Adel objected.

“It’s not the issue, it’s the procedure,” Watts says. “The procedure they tried to use in the subcommittee was totally out of order.”

Watts argues another committee should decide the issue.

“This was a parliamentary trick, basically, that was pounced on us and it was totally out of order,” Watts says.

Mathis warns Democrats may try to force Watts and other Republicans to consider the proposal in the same subcommittee again tomorrow.

“We have an emergency situation here and we should be able to look at a process that addresses this emergency situation,” Mathis says. “And today we weren’t able to present that in the way that we wanted, but there’s always tomorrow.”

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program is financed with federal funds, but Democrats say it’s time for the state to deposit money into the program to deal with the financial hardships caused by frigid temperatures that are driving utility bills higher and higher, especially in homes heated with propane.