TX Lawmakers Propose Energy Relief Spending

Texas Capitol building | Image by FunCam

Lawmakers in the Texas Senate have proposed spending almost $4 billion of taxpayer money to pay off energy expenses accrued from the 2021 winter storm.

Prices for gas and electricity have gone up since the infamous freeze, and those higher costs are being felt by customers across the state.

Last week, the Senate voted to pay $3.9 billion to energy companies to offset these rising prices.

“What we’re trying to do is treat as many people equally and fairly as we can,” said Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville), as reported by The Texas Tribune. “I think that’s all we can ask.”

The funds would be taken from an $11.8 billion supplemental spending plan passed in the Texas Senate. The plan was introduced by Senate Finance Committee Chair Joan Huffman (R-Houston).

During last week’s committee meeting, Mark Stubbs, general manager of the Farmers Electric Cooperative, said to lawmakers, “The February storm and related market failures were substantially beyond the control of electric co-ops,” per The Texas Tribune.

“People were freezing, and we did everything possible to keep the lights on with no thought to the economic consequences,” Stubbs added.

After the storm, residents throughout North Texas started paying an average of $20 more per month on electricity. During the storm, natural gas costs increased by more than 700%.

The state’s electric grid collapsed after being overwhelmed by the demand of people working to keep their homes warm. The price for electricity was set at $9,000 per megawatt-hour, the legal maximum. These costs were then pushed onto electricity providers.

The spending plan passed by the Senate was mirrored by a similar bill in the Texas House. Both proposals allocate $2.9 billion to Medicaid and $1 billion to the Employee Retirement System.

The bills also propose spending $600 million on school safety, $400 on projects to mitigate flooding, and $100 million in pay raises for state workers.

Both plans also direct $100 million to the Parks and Wildlife Department to be used for land purchases.

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