House lawmakers plan to bring forward a bill to address skyrocketing energy costs in a special session Thursday. (Dana Wormald | New Hampshire Bulletin)
The Legislature is scheduled to meet Thursday to act on bills vetoed by Gov. Chris Sununu. But the meeting is also an opportunity for lawmakers to act on Sununu’s call to create an emergency energy plan to address the skyrocketing costs of both electricity and home heat.
In June, Sununu proposed a $60 million dollar energy relief program to give residents $100 toward their electricity bills. Because the money would come from the state surplus, it requires approval from the Legislature. But House lawmakers have their own idea about what the state’s energy assistance should look like, laid out in a bill they intend to put forward Thursday during a special session.
Their bill would send up to $650 to income eligible households in the state, ahead of what the bill notes are “potentially catastrophic levels” of heating costs during the 2022-2023 winter season.
One major difference from Sununu’s proposal is the price tag. The draft plan circulated among lawmakers Wednesday proposes spending $42 million total, including $25 million on emergency fuel and electric assistance, $10 million on aid for electricity bills, and $7 million on an electric assistance program.
The House proposal would only aid those who qualify based on their income – those earning between 60 to 75 percent of the state median income. Sununu proposed making payments to people regardless of income. The governor’s approach sparked criticism from some Republicans on the executive council, who said some residents would receive state aid they didn’t need.
The state’s poorest residents, earning between 0 to 60 percent of the state median income, wouldn’t qualify for this program. But in July, the Executive Council approved a one-time credit of $405 to offset the cost of electricity to go to those households.
As drafted, the House’s fuel assistance program would provide a one-time credit of $450 to households that are income eligible. And residents would have to apply to the program to receive the money, unlike Sununu’s proposal, in which credit would be applied automatically.
The electric assistance program would provide a $200 credit to eligible households that apply.
Advancing the bill Thursday will require a two thirds majority vote to suspend the rules and enter a special session. It would then require approval by the Senate, which could change the plan.
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