WASHINGTON, – July 25, 2008 – (RealEstateRama) — U.S. Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) today introduced his three-pronged Weatherization, Assistance, and Relief for Middle-Income Households (WARM) Act amendment as a standalone bill after the Senate turned its attention away from debating energy following this morning’s failed cloture vote on the Stop Excessive Energy Speculation Act of 2008 (S. 3268). Senator Gregg’s bill, the WARM Act of 2008 (S. 3323), is fully paid for through the elimination of unnecessary tax breaks currently in place for oil and gas companies and would not add to the federal deficit. Senator John Sununu (R-NH) is an original cosponsor of both the amendment and the standalone bill. Specifics of the bill are included below.
Senator Gregg stated, “Here in New Hampshire, and in cold weather states throughout our nation, the question at the front of everyone’s mind is, ‘How am I going to afford to pay my heating bill this winter?’ Home heating oil prices are dramatically higher than last year – in fact, the cost has nearly doubled – and more than half the households in the Granite State rely on heating oil as the sole means of heating their homes. There is no reason that seniors, low-income individuals and families should have to choose between basic necessities such as groceries and medicine in order to pay their heating bills. But this problem isn’t limited to low-income households. Middle-class working families, who have already had their budgets strained with the rising costs of fuel and other consumer products, deserve some help when filling their heating oil tanks too.
“For this reason I have introduced this three-pronged strategy as a standalone bill after the liberal leadership in the Senate refused to allow me to offer it as an amendment to the Democratic energy speculation bill. The WARM Act would provide increased heating assistance this winter for seniors and low-income folks through the LIHEAP program, as well as a huge boost in funding for weatherization efforts for low-income homes. Weatherization assistance will help low-income households become more energy efficient and lower their heating bills for this winter and in years to come. The WARM Act also includes up to a $2,000 tax credit for middle-income families to help them buy heating oil for this winter.
“Simply put, the WARM Act is a common sense proposal for addressing sky-high heating costs in a fiscally responsible way by repealing unnecessary tax subsidies for oil and gas companies. At a time when oil and gas prices are at record highs, it makes no sense to continue to provide needless tax breaks to these companies while Americans are struggling to pay their heating bills. Instead, we can and should direct these dollars and tax benefits to provide much needed relief to hardworking Americans in a way that does not pass along the cost of today’s heating bills to our children and grandchildren.
“Unfortunately, as has been the trend this Congress, the Senate Democratic Leadership is unwilling to have a serious debate on energy policy and has used procedural tactics to block debate on the WARM Act and other efforts addressing our nation’s energy crisis. Instead of tackling the genuine supply and demand issues that are driving high oil prices, they continue throwing up narrow-minded proposals as an attempt to get political cover while Americans’ pocketbooks are taking a heavy toll at the pump. Ducking one of the most important domestic issues is simply unacceptable, and hopefully the liberal Congressional leadership will reconsider their tactics, stop playing political games, and allow us to have an open debate on energy production, a fiscally responsible LIHEAP proposal, and other critical matters. It is important that we debate and pass the WARM Act, in addition to a comprehensive pro-production, pro-conservation energy package that will make a real difference in the lives of folks throughout the country who are deeply concerned about oil and gas prices.”
Senator Sununu stated, “New Hampshire families should not have to spend the summer worrying about how to stay warm this winter. This measure addresses the high-cost of home heating oil by increasing funds for LIHEAP, boosting support for weatherization programs, and allowing a new tax credit for next winter’s home heating costs. By providing an additional $2.5 billion for LIHEAP, we can ensure that our most vulnerable citizens, including low-income families and seniors living on fixed incomes, will stay warm during the cold winter months. Tripling funding for weatherization programs will allow homeowners to save on heating costs while conserving energy, and the 50% tax credit for home heating oil costs would allow working families to save up to $2000 in 2008. We can help those who will struggle to pay their heating bills in a fiscally responsible way, and I am committed to seeing that Congress takes action now, rather than waiting for the cold weather to bring a crisis situation.”
Specifics of the bill include:
1. Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) – Similar to Senator Gregg’s Home Energy Assistance Today (HEAT) Act introduced last week, the WARM Act includes an additional $2.5 billion for LIHEAP, nearly doubling the current level of funding through the program. Under this amendment, which fully funds LIHEAP to the highest authorized level, New Hampshire would receive $8.4 million in additional formula funding, as well as an estimated $18.7 million in contingency funding which is allocated at the Administration’s discretion.
2. Weatherization – The WARM Act would also more than triple the Department of Energy’s weatherization program to the fully authorized level of $750 million. The weatherization program provides funding for low-income individuals and families to assist with increasing the energy efficiency of their homes, including the following measures: insulation, blower doors, air sealing, ENERGY STAR windows, heating and water heating upgrades, heating and cooling equipment upgrades, and increasing the efficiency of electrical appliances. Under this amendment, New Hampshire would receive an additional $2.5 million in weatherization funding.
3. Middle Income Home Heating Oil Tax Credit – The WARM Act would provide a tax credit of as much as $1,000 for individuals and $2,000 for married couples for home heating oil purchases this winter. With projected home heating oil expenditures totaling $2,915 for households in the Northeast, this tax credit would provide significant relief in paying these enormous costs.
Paying for it today: The WARM Act is fully offset by repealing the Section 199 “manufacturing” deduction for major integrated oil companies as well as making clarifications regarding the determination of foreign oil and gas extraction income (FOGEI).
Contact: Andrea Wuebker/Laena Fallon(Gregg)
Barbara Riley/Liz Chamberlain(Sununu)