Opponents squared off at the statehouse today over a bill to give low-income Iowans a break on utility bills. The Iowa Department of Human Rights wants Iowa’s rate-regulated utilities to charge the needy a lower rate for power. Lana Ross with the Iowa Community Action Association says low-income Iowans are struggling to pay their energy bills.
"We have a record number of families who are past due on their accounts in relation to their energy needs," Ross said. The bill would allow the Iowa Utilities Board to approve lower rates for the needy. But Iowa’s consumer advocate John Perkins cried foul. Perkins claims if utilities lower rates for some – rates will go up for others .
"The utility’s got a right to earn a certain amount of money, and if they sell some of their product at a discounted rate, somebody else has to make up for it," Perkins said. "The problem then is that you’ve got another class of ratepayer paying for a social program that really ought to be born by society." But, Ross says the state’s not in a position to help.
Ross says Iowa’s facing a tight budget, which makes it unlikely that lawmakers will approve more energy assistance. Democrats called for further study.