Idaho’s two U.S. congressmen are split over whether the American people need another taxpayer-funded “cash for caulkers” plan, formally called the Home Star program. 1st District Rep. Walt Minnick voted “yes” earlier this month on HR 5019, the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act of 2010, while 2nd District Rep. Mike Simpson voted against the bill.
HR 5019, which passed the House and has been sent to the Senate Finance Committee, would create another program to help homeowners winterize their homes using “green” products. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the so-called “stimulus”) already contains $5 billion for the same purpose. The Home Star program, if the Senate approves the House bill, would carry an additional $6 billion price tag.
Aside from the cost, critics have many problems with the Home Star bill, among them the requirement that contractors be certified by one of three organizations, including the Laborers’ Union of North America. On its website, Americans for Tax Relief (ATR) contends the restrictions on which contractors are authorized to perform the work are so restrictive as to ensure only union companies will be authorized. “Union-only labor is not only discriminating, but is also much more expensive than non-union labor. To truly make this bill fair and economically feasible, all contractors and workforces should be allowed to bid for contracts.”
ATR also points out that the Home Star program will come on the heels of the Department of Energy’s troubled Energy Star appliance program, which the New York Times exposed as having certified more than a dozen bogus products intentionally submitted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Among those products were a gasoline-powered alarm clock and an electric hammer.
The Heritage Foundation is concerned about what it perceives as the “government knows best” mentality in the bill. Reporter Nicolas Loris wrote, “It’s attempting to change Americans’ choices by footing a portion of the bill with taxpayer dollars. Consumers are in a much better position to determine how to be energy efficient than the government and we as a country have become a much more energy efficient over time.”
The Home Star bill, if it becomes law, will create a new bureaucracy under the Department of Energy, which could employ as many as 30 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees, with a top base pay level of GS-15. According to the federal government’s 2010 General Schedule pay scale , GS-15 tops out at $129,517.
But perhaps the biggest criticism of the Home Star bill is that it’s not needed. The “stimulus” bill contained $5 billion to make “green” upgrades and winterize 593,000 homes through 2012, but as Heritage points out, by the end of 2009, only 9,100 homes had undergone the process. This was done at a cost of $522 million, or more than $57,000 per home. An official with Citizens Against Government Waste , who asked not to be identified, said of the “stimulus” plan’s cash for caulkers provisions, “It’s become the poster child for wasteful and ridiculous spending.”
Rep. Simpson agreed. “The government’s record is spotty at best when it comes to implementing the expensive weatherization program included in the 2009 stimulus bill, and spending another $6 billion on an unrealistic program like this is simply throwing money away at a time when we should be reining in out-of-control government spending.”
The Idaho Freedom Foundation contacted the office of Rep. Walt Minnick, who voted for HR 5019, but had not received a comment at the time this story was published.