Texas AG Ken Paxton sues Houston guaranteed income program that will see impoverished households given $500-a-month for 18 months

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Written By Maya Cantina
  • Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called the guaranteed income program ‘unconstitutional’ in the court filling 
  • The program will provide families in need with $500 a month for 18 months
  • County leaders have since slammed Paxton’s decision to file the lawsuit  

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has sued Harris County, where Houston is located, over its guaranteed income program aimed to help thousands of impoverished households in the county.

Paxton contends that the program, named ‘Uplift Harris’, which will provide families in need with $500 a month for 18 months, violates the Texas Constitution.

More than 1,900 eligible individuals and families were selected from the ten of the poorest zip codes in the county in February, with the first payment scheduled to go out in late April.

With the attorney general now calling the program unlawful, the program could be halted just weeks before the first payment is set to roll out.

County leaders have since slammed Paxton, describing his decision as ‘surprising, shocking, and disheartening’. 

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has sued Harris County, where Houston is located, over its guaranteed income program aimed to help thousands of impoverished households in the county

Paxton contends that the program, named 'Uplift Harris', which will provide families in need with $500 a month for 18 months, violates the Texas Constitution

Paxton contends that the program, named ‘Uplift Harris’, which will provide families in need with $500 a month for 18 months, violates the Texas Constitution

The controversial program approved by county commissioners last year allocated $20.5million from American Rescue Plan funds and selected registered individuals by lottery. 

Paxton blasted the program in his lawsuit, stating that the funds were specifically intended to be used for COVID-19 relief initiatives. 

‘There is no such thing as free money – especially in Texas. The Texas Constitution expressly prohibits giving away public funds to benefit individuals – a common sense protection to prevent cronyism and ensure that public funds benefit all citizens,’ Paxton’s lawsuit states,’ the filling reads. 

The lawsuit also deems the program as a ‘socialist experiment by Lina Hidalgo and progressive democrats.’

County leaders have since taken to social media to express their disappointment, as they are expected to hold a press release about the lawsuit on Wednesday. 

Commissioner Rodney Ellis wrote on X: ‘This isn’t about constitutionality. This is about maintaining a system that favors billionaires and starves working families.

County Attorney Christian D. Menefee agreed, as he wrote: ‘This nothing more than an attack on local government and an attempt to make headlines.’ 

‘I will vigorously defend the county and this program in court,’ he added, saying the county will keep moving forward with the program until a court order blocks it. 

He told KHOU11:’It’s incredibly surprising, shocking and disheartening. More than 1,900 families right here in Harris County were slated to get $500 a month to help them deal with economic issues here in our county. 

‘But instead, because of actions of a bunch of politicians out in Austin, these folks are now going to be put on hold,’ he added. 

County Attorney Christian D. Menefee said: 'This nothing more than an attack on local government and an attempt to make headlines.'

County Attorney Christian D. Menefee said: ‘This nothing more than an attack on local government and an attempt to make headlines.’

More than 82,000 applications were submitted for the program, and the lottery system narrowed it down to 1,928 eventually, according to Menefee. 

A 2023 Kinder poll shows more than 775 percent of respondents support the idea of universal basic income for low-income, working adult.  

But the program was met with backlash from conservatives after it was approved in June, last year. 

State Senator Paul Bettencourt celebrated Paxton’s court filling Tuesday, as he dubbed the guaranteed income program ‘lottery socialism’ in an X post. 

‘I call it ‘Lottery Socialism’ and am glad to see the OAG taking this seriously to the point of not just responding to my opinion request but actually filing a suit against Harris County’s ‘Uplift’ Program!’,’ he wrote. 

‘AG is right; this violates the ‘gift cause’ of the Texas Constitution and it employs a random lottery as opposed to a rational classification,’ he added. 

In a statement announcing the filling, Paxton said the lottery-based handout is in violation the state’s constitution ‘because the selection of recipients is inherently arbitrary’. 

‘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,’ he said. 

ᴀʀᴛɪᴄʟᴇ ꜱᴏᴜʀᴄᴇ

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