Faced with a large cut in federal funding for heating assistance, state legislators voted to seek an additional $15 million from the Obama administration.
Lawmakers voted after a public hearing that lasted about six hours Tuesday on the plans by President Barack Obama to reduce Connecticut's allocation from $115 million last year to $46 million this year.
The vote was made to apply for more federal money, and the committee's action does not need to be ratified by the full state House of Representatives and Senate, officials said.
Legislators specified that the money could be spent on any fuel source - a reversal from a plan by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy that would have restricted the limited funds only to "deliverable'' sources, such as home heating oil. Legislators complained that citizens who heat their homes with electricity or natural gas would be ineligible to receive the assistance. Malloy had countered that those consumers could be treated differently because state law says that those with low incomes who meet the "hardship'' standard cannot have their utilities shut off for fully one half of the year - from November 1 to May 1.
The issue of the heating source was the most hotly debated issue of the hearing Tuesday at the state Capitol complex.
If the federal application is rejected, legislators could then decide to spend state - rather than federal - money. In order to do that, lawmakers would need to take money from another program because the state budget is essentially at the maximum under the state-mandated spending cap. As such, any additional funds - without subsequent reductions - would push the state over the spending cap.
The state is currently at $1 million under the spending cap - a tiny amount when compared to a budget of $20 billion.
In the past, legislators have voted after the fiscal year began to allocate additional heating assistance money - depending on the price of oil and the severity of the winter.
The regular legislative session is scheduled to begin in early February 2012.