Chron misses true outrage of LITE-UP switcheroo

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The Chronicle editorial board writes the following today:

When they go to change public school finance or the state’s tax system, or when they need to balance the budget, the leadership in Austin has a uniform policy: Take from the poor and give to the rich. In the latest and most egregious example, state budget writers have broken a pledge to low-income Texans made in 2003 to provide discounts on electrical bills as part of the compromise that deregulated utilities.

In September, when electricity bills are at their highest, about 115,000 households in the Houston-Galveston area will lose those discounts, which amount to an average $17 a month, or $200 a year. The discount program, called LITE-UP Texas, has no funding beyond that point because budget writers took the estimated $200 million collected from rate payers for the discounts and transferred it into the state general fund to pay for other programs.

The editorial board commits a common transgression of ideologues when it tries to impose its preconceptions (those evil Republicans in Austin want to take from the poor to help their rich friends!) on reality (the legislators ended a subsidy to the poor, but left the funding mechanism in place to help fund their bloated state budget).

The real outrage isn’t that the legislature is taking from the poor to give to the rich (which isn’t especially the case, but makes for nice sound bites), but as Sedosi Alhambra put it yesterday, that it simply engaged in a money grab that most people will never know about in order to fund an obscene spending spree.

For anybody who wonders why taxpayers get apprehensive when Chronicle editorialists/bureau chiefs and local bloggers argue in favor of new revenue streams like an income tax, this sort of absence of accountability (and even conscience) in Austin would be a good place to start!

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Kevin Whited
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