Texas Senate robs from the poor, gives away the money available for low-income utility assistance

Without bothering to put on masks, a majority of Texas Senators voted this afternoon to rob $811 million from a fund collected to help the poor pay their utility bills.

There is not any other way to characterize today’s action.

The Senate voted to return the funds in the State account collected from Texas utility customers to help low-incme families with their electric bill. I blogged about this earlier this month and I won’t restate the terrible consequences and the lost opportunity to abate the suffering of the poor this represents.

It was a close fought issue. The bill was allowed to proceed by only one vote.

Senators Ellis, West, Lucio, Davis, Watson and others fought to preserve these funds for the benefit of low-income families.

The Senate rejected an amendment by Senators Ellis and West requiring that the funds be spent to weatherization of the homes of low-income Texans. That amendment was defeated 12-19. An amendment by Senator Ellis to use $54 million of the $811 million to expand Medicaid to the poor was defeated on a procedural objection by the bill’s author Senator Williams.

Senator Williams, responding to criticism of his original bill, amended his bill to provide for rebates to go to residential customers only. This means every electric customer will get about $130 credit on their electric bill that was originally collected to help the poor.

Nonetheless, the bill wipes out the chance to use the $811 million in the fund to hep the poor afford their utility bills or weatherize their homes.

It used to be the conservative thing to do to help the poor. That’s not the case in Texas.

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