Texas AG sues to halt a assured earnings program, calling it a ‘socialist experiment’

Texas’ lawyer basic filed a lawsuit on Tuesday searching for to cease a assured earnings program set to begin this month for Houston-area residents.

This system by Harris County, the place Houston is situated, is ready to supply “no-strings-attached” $500 month-to-month money funds to 1,928 county residents for 18 months. Those that certified for this system should have a family earnings beneath 200% of the federal poverty line and have to stay in one of many recognized high-poverty zip codes.

This system is funded by $20.5 million from the American Rescue Plan, the pandemic relief law signed by President Joe Biden in 2021.

Federal pandemic funding has prompted dozens of cities and counties across the country to implement assured earnings packages as methods to cut back poverty, reduce inequality and get folks working.

In his lawsuit filed in civil courtroom in Houston, Texas Lawyer Basic Ken Paxton dubbed this system the “Harris Handout” and described it as a “socialist experiment” by county officers that violates the Texas Structure and is “an illegal and illegitimate government overreach.”

“This scheme is plainly unconstitutional,” Paxton mentioned in an announcement. “Taxpayer money must be spent lawfully and used to advance the public interest, not merely redistributed with no accountability or reasonable expectation of a general benefit.”

State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, a Republican from Houston who had requested Paxton to look into the county’s program, known as it an “unbelievable waste” of taxpayer {dollars} and “Lottery Socialism.”

Harris County officers pushed again on Paxton’s lawsuit, which is asking for a brief restraining order to cease this system. The primary funds had been set to be distributed as early as April 24.

Harris County Choose Lina Hidalgo, the county’s prime elected official, mentioned assured earnings is likely one of the oldest and most profitable anti-poverty packages, and he or she feels “for these families whose plans and livelihoods are being caught up in political posturing by Trumpian leaders in Texas.”

“This lawsuit from Ken Paxton reads more like a MAGA manifesto than a legal document,” mentioned Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis, who spearheaded this system, generally known as Uplift Harris.

Harris County Lawyer Christian Menefee mentioned this system “is about helping people in a real way by giving them direct cash assistance — something governments have always done.”

The lawsuit is the newest authorized battle in recent times between Harris County, Texas’ greatest Democratic stronghold, and the GOP-dominated state authorities.

Elections within the nation’s third-most populous county have been scrutinized for a number of years now. The Texas Legislature passed new laws in 2023 searching for extra affect over Harris County elections.

Final yr, Texas took over the Houston school district, the state’s largest, after years of threats and lawsuits over scholar efficiency. Democrats assailed the transfer as political.

Austin and San Antonio have beforehand supplied assured earnings packages in Texas. El Paso County is ready to roll out its personal program later this yr. No lawsuits have been filed towards these packages.

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