Texas Judge Rejects Attorney General’s Attempt to Block Basic Income Plan

A Texas district judge on April 18 dismissed a lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that sought to quash Harris County’s guaranteed income program.

Attorney General Paxton sued Harris County on April 9, arguing that the 18-month pilot program to provide low-income residents $500 a month violated a provision of the state constitution on the disbursement of public funds.

In rejecting Paxton’s lawsuit, District Court Judge Ursula Hall noted that the funding for the program was coming from the 2021 American Rescue Plan signed into law by President Joe Biden.

Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis celebrated the judge’s decision, saying in an April 18 statement that the court “thwarted” the state’s attempt to “rob struggling families of critical support.”

Harris County Judge Linda Hidalgo called the judge’s decision a “victory” but said she expected the attorney general’s office to appeal the decision.

Hidalgo said in a statement that it was clear “from a legal perspective” that the attorney general’s claim had “no merit at all.” She noted that then-President Trump sent checks out to “people below a certain income” as part of the CARES Act but added that “far-right state leaders” continued to “bully” the county. She also suggested that Paxton’s office sued Harris County “to get free news coverage.”

Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee said he expected the lawsuit to end up before the Texas Supreme Court and suggested that if it did, the county would not “get a fair shake.”

Menefee vowed to continue fighting to protect the basic income program.

Menefee previously accused the Attorney General of suing the county as a way to target its low-income minority residents who largely vote Democrat.

The 18-month program was scheduled to start on April 24 using $20.5 million the county received from the American Rescue Plan.