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Romney Signs Legislation to Provide Energy Price Relief and Increase Conservation

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Governor Mitt Romney today signed legislation that softens the burden of high heating costs and provides incentives to consumers and businesses to use energy efficiently. A companion bill signed by Romney would establish new efficiency standards for household products such as furnaces and boilers.

"Heating costs shouldn't burn a hole in your pocket. It's important that we take every measure possible to ensure that Massachusetts stays warm this winter," Romney said.

"In addition to providing relief from high energy bills, we face a long-term energy challenge and the legislation we are signing today puts in place incentives and standards that promote energy efficiency over the long run," he added.

The first bill signed by Governor Romney appropriates $20 million in fuel assistance for low income Massachusetts residents who are eligible for the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). With the state's contribution, eligible households will be able to receive as much as $840 towards heating bill payments this winter.

This legislation also:

* Allows a personal income tax deduction of up to $800 for home heating costs incurred between November 1, 2005 and March 31, 2006. To qualify, taxpayers must earn less than $50,000 if they are single filers, or not more than $75,000 if filing jointly.
* Provides a one-time tax credit for homeowners who purchase energy-efficient heating products equal to 30% of the cost of the products up to $600 for a single family home and $1000 for a multi-family home. Examples of eligible products include new windows, advanced programmable thermostats, insulation, weather stripping and fuel-efficient furnaces, boilers and hot water systems.
* Establishes a one-year, zero or low-interest loan program to help residents improve the efficiency of their homes. The state will subsidize the interest on private loans in order to allow consumers to purchase and install energy efficient items in their homes.
* Provides a one-time corporate excise tax credit to businesses that purchase solar water heating systems equal to 15%, or $300 - whichever is less - of the cost to purchase and install the systems.

"I am proud that the Legislature and the Governor acted quickly to help people in need with the high cost of energy this winter and offer incentives to all residents to reduce their overall energy usage through conservation and energy efficiency," said Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi. "Today's bill signing is part of a larger effort over the long term to address the Commonwealth's energy needs and to develop solutions to reduce the economic impact on our citizens."

"This bill goes a long way in ensuring that those who need help keeping warm this winter are well taken care of, while at the same time, giving incentives to citizens to utilize and conserve energy resources," said Representative Bradford R. Hill.

Romney also signed into law a companion bill establishing new minimum efficiency standards for products such as residential furnaces and boilers. Manufacturers and retailers would be required to sell only highly efficient furnaces and boilers in Massachusetts, prompting significant long term savings for consumers.

"These new efficiency standards are part of a long term solution to the energy challenges we face. Clean energy technologies will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, air pollution and long-term energy costs," Romney said.

The legislation also establishes new standards for other products such as AC/DC transformers, metal halide lamps, and state regulated incandescent reflector lamps. Massachusetts will join states such as California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Oregon, Washington and New York in setting standards for these products.

"The appliance efficiency law will improve our long term economic competitiveness and help save money for all consumers while playing to our strength in innovation and environmental protection," said Commonwealth Development Secretary Douglas I. Foy.

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