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Saturday, August 18 Local

Lawmakers: restore money to energy fund

HARTFORD — Vivian Perez, a Stratford-based energy contractor, joined leading lawmakers on Tuesday in an effort to restore $145 million that the General Assembly raided from an efficiency fund that is supposed to help lower-income consumers.

Perez, representing the Home Performance Alliance of Connecticut and the owners of a single and multi-family energy efficiency company, said the legislature made a major mistake in taking away the money used to fund energy audits and upgrades. “In the last few months, I’ve come to the realize that there’s a lack of understanding regarding the connection between the Conservation and Loan Management, and our businesses,” she said, stressing that the diversion affected her income and employees.

“Sales enable us to create jobs and provide services,” she said. “When our source of income is diverted, then our businesses have no choice but to retract. We retract our workforce and we retract the homes we serve and the services that we provide.”

Perez said that her 10-employee company, HE-Energy Solutions LLC, has a skilled workforce, who have been offered a stable workload and environment serving the elderly, young families and unemployed people who are financially vulnerable. The average energy cost is $380 a month per family.

“There are 300,000 households in Connecticut that cannot afford their energy,” said Brenda Watson, executive director of Operation Fuel, the program that helps low-income residents with energy costs.

Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-Westport and Rep. Lonnie Reed, D-Branford, co-chairman of the Energy and Technology Committee joined Perez and other energy-efficiency advocates in a morning news conference supporting a bill that would repeal the diversion of surcharges on consumer electric bills into the General Fund.

“While we pursue the shift from fossil fuels to renewable, distributed energy sources, we must also commit to energy efficiency initiatives across the board,” said Steinberg, a member of the energy committee, in a statement. “The funds diverted last year undermine our ability to achieve such efficiencies and support the companies which provide them.”

“We are talking about an incredibly important workforce of taxpaying professionals with families to support,” Reed added. “We must restore funding and stop bait-and-switch tactics.”

Faced last year with a deficit that soared to $5 billion, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers scrambled and scrimped through a record, months-long delay in approving a budget for the fiscal year that started July 1 of last year. The final piece of the budget was put together on January 31, when the House and Senate voted to override a Gov. Dannel P. Malloy veto, to restore income levels for more than 90,000 elderly and disabled participants in the Medicare Savings Program.

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kdixon@ctpost.com Twitter: @KenDixonCT

Ken Dixon|State Capitol reporter/columnist Hearst Connecticut Media

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