Senator Patrick Leahy’s Statement On The Deep Cuts Proposed For The LIHEAP Program

Leahy Suggests: Instead Of Slashing Help For Struggling Families With Their Heating Bills, Let’s End Big Oil Firms’ Huge Tax Breaks

[(MONDAY, Feb. 14, 2011) -- Vermont’s delegation in Congress -- Senator Patrick Leahy (D), Senator Bernie Sanders (I), and Congressman Peter Welch D) – Monday held a news conference at the Champlain Senior Center in Burlington, Vt., to discuss their opposition to the president budget proposal for deep cuts in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Also on Monday, the Northeast-Midwest Coalition – a study group in Congress – confirmed that Vermont would lose half of its LIHEAP funds under a cut as large as the White House proposes.]


Year after year, we have had to fight for adequate resources for the LIHEAP program.  Budget choices should be based on facts, so whenever the calls come for deep cuts in this program that offers help to some of our most vulnerable citizens, it is time for a reality check.

Heat in the winter is not a ‘consumer choice.’  It is not a household budget option.  Heat in the winter in Vermont is a basic necessity. 

The budget choices we make in Congress reflect who we are as a society, and the American people want budget decisions that are fair and sensible. The President’s budget recommendations today for LIHEAP do not meet that test.  

The president’s proposal to slash the LIHEAP funds by more than half would have a severe impact on many Vermont households that are struggling the most right now.  It’s the wrong choice, and I strongly oppose it.

These proposed cuts for next year would force millions of families, during harsh winters, to have to choose whether to heat, to eat, or to have the prescription medicines they need to maintain their health.  No American should be forced to make that kind of Hobson’s choice.

I have also learned that the President is proposing a large cut to the Community Development Block Grant and Community Services Block Grant programs.  While improving our budgetary outlook will require difficult choices, cutting the funding for community action programs will hinder, rather than help, our economic recovery.

A $2.5 billion cut to the LIHEAP program will mean far fewer families receiving assistance and far too many of our most vulnerable citizens experiencing a terribly cold time next winter.

Meanwhile, speaking of energy costs, it should rankle every taxpaying American that some of the richest corporations in the history of the world are allowed to shortchange the U.S. Treasury. 

Middle income families see the price at the pump rise and wonder why the federal government continues to heap favors on oil companies through our tax code, at a cost of at least $20 billion over ten years.

Over the past decade BP, Exxon, Chevron, Shell, and Conoco have had combined profits of just under $1 trillion.  In 2010 alone, these companies made over $75 billion, and this includes the $17 billion BP spent trying to clean up their disastrous spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Make no mistake, big oil companies are not using these subsidies to bring down the price for consumers.  They are padding and re-padding the profits they reap every time we visit the gas station. 

So here’s a more sensible choice.  Instead of slashing heating cost help for low-income Americans, let’s end the tax breaks for big oil companies.  Lavishing these giant corporations with incentives they don’t need simply deepens our deficit and our dependence on dirty fossil fuels.  Our focus instead should be on 21st Century clean energy that powers a jobs boom and cuts down energy costs for middle-class families. 

Heating help for struggling families, or continuing the counterproductive tax breaks for the big oil companies?  The question answers itself.

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