Several Democratic lawmakers want to tap Oklahoma’s Rainy Day Fund to help Oklahomans struggling to pay for propane amid a recent cold snap.
Rep. James Lockhart of Heavener said he intends to offer a resolution urging the state’s Republican leadership to provide some relief for more than 400,000 state residents who rely on propane for heat.
“It’s time for them to get some of their tax money back,” he said Wednesday in a press conference with several other Democratic legislators.
Lockhart said colder temperatures and higher propane prices are creating a hardship for many state residents, who already are strapped for cash after the holidays.
“We need to do something about this,” he said. “This is serious.”
Residential propane prices spiked to about $4 a gallon last month in the U.S. — up more than $1.50 over a year ago — according to the Energy Information Administration.
Gov. Mary Fallin last week ordered the state Department of Human Services to give priority to low-income residents who ask for help with their propane bills, but Lockhart said available money is limited.
He suggested using money from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to resolve what he called the “cash flow issue” propane sellers and their customers face.
Retailers increasingly are being asked to pay for propane in advance due to higher prices and tighter supplies, Lockhart said. That makes it difficult for them to extend credit to their customers.
He said some retailers are losing money by delivering smaller-than-usual amounts of propane to cash-strapped customers.
Rep. Ben Sherer said propane prices have quadrupled recently, making it vital for lawmakers to provide an “emergency subsidy program.”
The Chouteau Democrat said such a program could be put together quickly if lawmakers work together.
A Fallin spokesman said she would welcome discussion into ways to help Oklahomans struggling with rising propane prices.
Fallin last week’activated the Emergency Price Stabilization Act, which guards against price fixing and price gouging. The order will remain in effect until March 2.