Saturday, August 13, 2011

Texas Raids Fund For The Poor To Cut Taxes For The Rich

We have a little break from the heat in north central Texas today, but over the past two months the temperature hit triple-digits 41 times in 42 days. We will likely see some more triple-digit temperature days before this Texas summer ends.

CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann reports Texas has a fund to help the poor pay their electricity bills. But somewhere between the fund and the people who need it, the money hit a short circuit.

In scorching Dallas, overheated seniors sought relief at an air conditioned Catholic charities center. Mary Ann Torres was also looking for financial relief. She can't afford to power the two window air conditioners that struggle to keep her house bearable.

"I don't think we've ever had it this hot before," Torres says. On a fixed monthly income of $791 her electric bill can top $200.

Texas utility customers pay a little extra on their bills that is supposed to go into a fund to help the poor cover their own utility payments. But in a year of record heat, less than half the fund is being paid out, forcing people to do without air conditioning in triple-digit temperatures.

CBS News - August 12, 2011.

CBS reports that Texas legislators, eager to avoid a tax increase, approved setting aside the Lite-Up Texas money to balance the state's checkbook during the 2011 legislative session. This isn't the first time.

The legislature has repeatedly approved raiding the fund in order to balance its budget without raising taxes.

By 2013, there will be $900 million sitting unspent, with no plans to ever pay it out.

And not only are the poor being shortchanged, but members of the middle class who pay utility bills are being charged that extra fee which does nothing but subsidize keeping taxes low on the wealthy. It's a crisis with life and death consequences. Last month an 81-year-old man was found dead in his hot home - his air conditioner turned off. Relatives say he couldn't afford his electric bill.

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