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Alaska State Senate Passes Energy Relief Plan Including Vouchers

Bipartisan Effort Utilizes Portion of State Surplus
to Help Alaska Families Cope with High Energy Prices

JUNEAU- Today, the Alaska State Senate passed Senate Bill 203, which provides Alaskans with relief from the effects of high energy costs by assisting them with the purchase of approximately two months of energy, and develops a program to help residents deal with energy costs during the transition to more affordable energy sources.

Senator Joe Thomas, the prime sponsor of SB 203, explained, "High energy prices fill the state's treasury, but hit Alaska's working families hard. We intend to use a portion of the State of Alaska's $4.7 billion surplus - about seven cents of every surplus dollar - to deliver real energy relief to Alaskans this year."

The bill's sponsors include Senators Joe Thomas (D-Fairbanks), Joe Paskvan (D-Fairbanks), Gary Stevens (R-Kodiak), Lyman Hoffman (D-Bethel), Tom Wagoner (R-Kenai), Johnny Ellis (D-Anchorage), Donny Olson (D-Golovin), Linda Menard (R-Mat-Su), Bettye Davis (D-Anchorage), Hollis French (D-Anchorage), Albert Kookesh (D-Angoon) and Dennis Egan (D-Juneau).

SB 203 directs the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation to send a voucher to every adult PFD recipient in the fall of 2012. This can be redeemed at a fuel distributor or utility of the recipient's choice for the value of 250 gallons of heating oil, 350 Ccf of natural gas, 31 mmbtu of district heat, or for 1,500 KWH of electricity.

People who do not pay directly for fuels included in the voucher, because their utilities are included in rent or because they use alternative fuels, may ask AHFC to either:  reissue their voucher in the name of their landlord in exchange for rent reduction, or issue them a check for $250 that must be used for rent or energy.

The bill also calls for the state to evaluate several options for on-going energy relief and recommend a program that can be put into effect in 2013.   The analysis and recommendations are due back to the legislature by October 1, 2012. 

"Some people have asked whether we should spend this money on long-term projects instead of assisting individual Alaskans.  I say to them that no one is a stronger advocate of long-term solutions like the Watana Dam and an instate gasline than me, but we must be honest and acknowledge that permanent reduction in energy costs from these projects is ten years in the future," said Senator Thomas.  "It is not reasonable to tell families that can�t pay their basic bills that they do not need energy assistance because help is coming next decade.  We can afford to help Alaska residents now and move forward on design, permitting and construction of the dam, the gas line and other infrastructure."

Senate Bill 203 now heads to the House for further consideration.

For more information, contact Senator Joe Thomas' aide, Catherine Reardon at 465-2327 or at catherine.reardon@legis.state.ak.us.

 

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