Paxton Sues TX County Over ‘Guaranteed Income’

Att. Gen. Ken Paxton
Att. Gen. Ken Paxton | Image by Robert Daemmrich Photography/Getty Images

Att. Gen. Ken Paxton announced on Tuesday that he has filed a lawsuit to stop a guaranteed income program in Harris County.

The Uplift Harris County Guaranteed Income Pilot, announced by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo in 2023, grants 1,928 Harris County residents $500 monthly for 18 months through direct deposits or pre-paid debit cards.

“The goal of the program is to improve participants’ financial and health outcomes, as well as understanding the impacts of guaranteed income on both individuals and their communities,” reads the program’s website.

Paxton’s lawsuit alleges that the program is unconstitutional because it relies on arbitrary factors to reward recipients at random.

Eligible participants must be at least 200% below the federal poverty line and live in one of multiple “high-poverty ZIP codes” in Harris County.

Over 82,000 people submitted applications from 10 different zip codes, but only 2% were selected, as reported by KHOU 11.

Paxton argues in the lawsuit that this program violates the Texas Constitution, which “expressly prohibits giving away public funds to benefit individuals — a common-sense protection to prevent cronyism and ensure that public funds benefit all citizens.”

The funding for the Uplift Harris program comes from the $20.5 million provided in the American Rescue Plan Act. This act was meant to provide funds to those who were impacted by the economic downturn from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the program’s website.

In a news release about the lawsuit, Paxton claims that the Uplift Harris program is “plainly unconstitutional” and should not be allowed to proceed.

“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. I am suing to stop officials in Harris County from abusing public funds for political gain,” he added.

The lawsuit requests that the court temporarily prevent Harris County officials from “continuing to implement and operate the Harris Handout,” adding that the plaintiffs would like the prevention to be permanently implemented following due process.

Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee criticized the suit, claiming it is “nothing more than another attack on Harris County government by Republican state leaders looking to make headlines.”

“This program is about helping people in a real way by giving them direct cash assistance — something governments have always done. I cannot for the life of me understand why any public servant would be opposed to that,” Menefee said, according to The Texas Tribune.

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