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Senate OKs energy assistance

Posted: Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Sen. Tom Wagoner, R-Kenai, attempted Tuesday to delete 10 pages of an omnibus energy assistance package then under debate in the Senate and replace it with a simplified energy rebate program that would have given every adult Alaskan or emancipated minor $1,200.

The full Senate, however, rejected that idea, voting instead to send Senate Bill 4002 to the Alaska House.

Sen. Con Bunde, R-Anchorage, joined Wagoner in sponsoring the amendment, which Wagoner said would have provided a one-time only payout that would have been far likely less costly than the resource rebate program in the bill eventually sent to the House.

Sens. Fred Dyson, R-Eagle River, and Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, joined Wagoner and Bunde in supporting the $1,200 energy rebate idea.

Among other things, the Senate bill that was sent to the House would establish a Resource Rebate Program that would add $500 to the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend check received by eligible Alaskans. The program makes allowances for Alaskans who, for certain reasons, do not apply for a dividend check.

The bill also would add "alternative energy projects" to a list of projects that might be eligible for grants; make certain changes to the Power Cost Equalization program; add a gas pipeline development fund provision in the Department of Revenue; express the intent of the Legislature to appropriate $50 million a year for five years to help fund renewable energy projects recommended by the Alaska Energy Authority; and create an Emergency Energy Relief Fund.

The final Senate vote on the full measure was 14-3. Wagoner, along with Sen. John Cowdery, R-Anchorage, and Sen. Gene Therriault, R-North Pole, were excused. Wagoner said he had to keep a medical appointment he'd already put off twice.

By Tuesday afternoon, aspects of the Senate version of the energy assistance measure were being discussed in the House Finance Committee.

Wagoner said late Tuesday he thought the Senate version may be dead on arrival, and he expected the House to send back a "much cleaner" version. He wasn't sanguine about its likely contents.

"It's an election year," he said. "I'll probably be forced to vote for it."

Hal Spence can be reached at hspence@ptialaska.net.



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