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Lawmakers expect home heating deal before break

By Rick Pluta, Michigan Public Radio Network

LANSING, MI – Republican leaders at the state Capitol say they expect to wrap up work this week on a plan to ensure there's money to help low-income families with their heating bills this winter. But their efforts are already being criticized because they don't encourage energy efficiency.

About 600,000 Michigan households needed heating aid last winter. State House and Senate leaders say they will continue discussions to fix a problem created last summer by a court decision that forced lawmakers to find a new way to pay for the program.

Republican state Representative Ken Horn says the new program will not include money for energy efficiency projects on homes or public buildings.

"That is not helping low-income families," Horn says. "What we are doing very specifically and very targeted, is helping the most-vulnerable families in the state of Michigan."

Representative Jeff Irwin, a Democrat, says energy efficiency yields long-term benefits and savings.

"So this is a program that was making financial sense for all of us."

Republicans say the new program should be approved this week before the Legislature begins its winter break.

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