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Published on April 11, 2024
Texas AG Ken Paxton Sues to Halt Harris County's "Socialist Experiment" Guaranteed Income ProgramSource: Texas Attorney General

Legal drama unfolds in Texas as Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed a lawsuit against Harris County, looking to block its new guaranteed income program from taking effect. According to AP News, Paxton's office is challenging the initiative, dubbing it "Harris Handout," and labeling it a "socialist experiment." Paxton argues the program is unconstitutional and represents an "illegal and illegitimate government overreach."

Slated to begin this month, the "Uplift Harris" program was set to distribute $500 monthly payments for 18 months to 1,928 residents with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty line. Funded by $20.5 million from the federal American Rescue Plan, the program aims to swiftly provide citizens a financial leg up amidst recent inflation. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, in a statement obtained by the Houston Chronicle, described Paxton's timing as "cruel" and "unscrupulous," lamenting the potential impact on families anticipating this aid.

State Senator Paul Bettencourt has voiced support for Paxton's stance, calling the program an “unbelievable waste” of taxpayer dollars and accusing it of fostering "Lottery Socialism." The lawsuit's filing has drawn sharp criticism from local officials like Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis, who told AP News that the move reads "more like a MAGA manifesto than a legal document." Ellis, who spearheaded the initiative, stressed their commitment to helping people "in a real way by giving them direct cash assistance."

County officials have not shied away from expressing doubts over the fairness of any forthcoming rulings by the conservative-led Texas Supreme Court. Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee admitted to FOX 26 Houston that he is "less than confident" that the county will get a fair shake. Public reaction to the lawsuit has been mixed, with critics highlighting the program's potential to alleviate child poverty and assist low-income families, while supporters of the lawsuit cling tightly to interpretations of constitutionality and fiscal responsibility.

With hearings expected in the coming weeks, the unfolding case emerges as the latest flashpoint in a series of legal battles between Texas' largest Democratic stronghold and the GOP-dominated state government. The suit has drawn national attention as it challenges a social initiative that echoes programs successfully implemented in cities like Phoenix, Des Moines, and Madison. As the case progresses, all eyes will turn towards the Texas courts to learn the fate of Harris County's attempt to try and provide for its neediest.