System Benefit Fund deal in the works: better than nothing until it becomes nothing

A deal is reportedly in the works over the Texas System Benefit Fund that is better than what was originally proposed by the Texas Senate. In the three years however the deal will leave poor Texas households at the mercy of high cost unregulated electric utilities.

I have written about the issue earlier. The original proposal was to end the Texas System Benefit Fund to help poor Texans pay their electric bills and give the money that has been collected but used for this purpose to everyone who pays an electric bill including large corporate electric customers.

The deal being floated today would give the $850 million in the fund to poor Texas households for whom the money was collected but would stop collecting the funds and spend down and end the fund in three years.

So the Legislature would give poor Texans a significant rebate in their electric bills and then forever end all forms of electric cost assistance starting in 2016. We have called for continuing the fund and using a portion of the fund to weatherize the home of the poor so their energy costs are permanently lowered. That approach has been rejected by Senate leaders.

This is better than giving away the money to corporate energy customers and others. But the prospect of ending all state responsibility for helping poor people afford high priced, deregulated electricity is short sighted and will cause widespread suffering among the poor.

For three years the poor will get help, then they will be left out in the cold and the dark.

Compassionate conservatism, if it every really existed, is dead in the Texas Legislature.

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