Republicans will direct an additional 15-million dollars to help low-income Iowans pay their heating bills. Democrat Governor Tom Vilsack has asked for 20-million, but Republicans say they’re changing the program’s formula so more money’s spent on heating assistance and less is spent on weatherization projects. Senate Republican Leader Stewart Iverson of Dows says the top priority is to direct fuel and heating assistance to individualsHouse Republican Leader Christopher Rants of Sioux City also says the emphasis right now should be on heating assistance. Senate President Mary Kramer, a republican from West Des Moines, says the idea is to get the money to needy Iowans as quickly as possible. Governor Tom Vilsack says it’s wrong to shift dollars away from weatherization projects that for instance help low-income Iowans put insulation in their attics or install better windows. Vilsack suggests continuing a two-dollar-per-month utility tax scheduled to end this summer, getting utility companies to “front” the state the 20-million, and using that money to pay for low-income heating assistance. Republicans get the 15-million dollars several ways: first, by shifting about two-million in the Low Income Heating Assistance Program away from weatherization to heating assistance; second, by shifting 10-million dollars in general tax revenues to the program; and third by taking money out of a trust fund that was reserved for housing assistance. Republicans say they’ll debate the issue this week, along with their proposal to lift the state sales tax on natural gas for three months.
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