April 22, 2013
Texas Senator Kirk Watson released the following statement Monday regarding the Senate’s approval of Senate Bill 1655 and Senate Joint Resolution 55, allowing the near-liquidation of the state’s System Benefit Fund balance to pay for a rebate unrelated to the Fund’s intended purpose:
“In the past, those in control of the Texas Capitol have used budget diversions to cover up the state’s failure to provide basic necessities or to keep their promises to Texans.
“As of today, they’re using diversions for pre-election gimmicks, as well.
“On what was close to a party-line vote, those in control of the Senate advanced a bill that would nearly liquidate a fund meant to provide help to low-income utility customers. Instead of using the money as intended – for utility bill discounts or the weatherization of homes – the money will now be rebated to ratepayers in certain areas of the state.
“The rebates, it was said during today’s debate, will amount to roughly $120 per customer, no matter how much that resident or company has put into the program over the years. In case anyone questions the political intent of this legislation, it requires that the rebates be labeled, ‘refund of system benefit fund fee as provided by the Texas Legislature.’
“The System Benefit Fund has become one of the biggest secret piggybanks in the budget. Those in control allowed hundreds of millions of dollars to build up in the System Benefit Fund, refusing to spend the money on those things Texans thought they were getting when they paid that fee. Instead, year after year, they broke the state’s promise on how the fund would be used and diverted the money to certify more spending in the budget.
“This legislation represents another diversion, another broken promise, an admission of defeat and resignation about ever using the public’s money for its intended purpose.
“Unfortunately, it’s not unique. The tough talk from over the winter about tackling the issue of diversions is blowing away with the spring. Texas can do better than cynical giveaways and more broken promises.”