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Guaranteed income programs face GOP opposition

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(The Center Square) – In December 2021, the Phoenix City Council approved a pilot guaranteed income program for 1,000 low-income families that would provide $1,000 a month from taxpayers.

Like many guaranteed income programs, it was funded by federal emergency money from the American Rescue Plan Act.

An estimated 150 guaranteed income programs have popped up across the country and now Republicans are pushing back trying to ban them. The Foundation for Government Accountability think tank estimates that at least $2.35 billion has been budgeted or spent on universal basic income type programs in the U.S.

In January, Arizona Republican State Rep. Lupe Diaz introduced House Bill 2319 that would ban guaranteed income type programs in the state. The bill was moved over for consideration by the state senate on Feb. 22.

There were similar bills introduced by Republicans in Iowa and South Dakota. And a Texas GOP politician is challenging these types of programs in his state.

“This is the epitome of socialism, which guarantees its citizens an income without having to work for it,” Diaz stated on his website. “Under the guaranteed income program, everyone would be at the same level of pay. The Republican Party believes in a solid work ethic and prosperity. People can earn as much as they want if they work for their income. The opportunity to prosper is still available in the free market society.”

As more guaranteed income programs continue to launch across the country, the more opposition to these programs is being seen in the form of bills across several states.

Iowa State Rep. Steven Holt, a Republican, introduced a bill in February to prohibit counties and cities from providing guaranteed income programs and called the program “socialism on steroids” in his closing statement for the bill.

Although South Dakota has no guaranteed income programs, GOP lawmakers also recommended a bill prohibiting cities and counties from creating these programs, as previously reported by The Center Square.

The bill defines guaranteed income programs as “a plan funded or administered by the government under which an individual is provided with regular, unconditional cash payments to be used for any purpose by the individual.”

Across the country more and more lawmakers are voicing their concerns over the programs. Texas State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, a Republican, wrote a letter to Attorney General Ken Paxton in January, asking if Texas counties have the authority to enact such a program and if it violates the gift prohibition clause of the Texas Constitution.

His letter was in reply to Harris County’s Uplift Harris guaranteed income pilot program that offers eligible households $500 a month for 18 months.

“It’s ‘Lottery Socialism’ as I call it,” Bettencourt posted on his Facebook account. “When the ‘free federal money’ runs out, who will pick up the tab? Hmm, well, Harris County Taxpayers, of course!”

A Washington Post story in February generated national publicity when it detailed how one mother spent more than half of her lump sum $10,800 from a guaranteed-income program on a luxury vacation for herself and her family. The trip included a boat tour of mansions and luxury yachts.

There have been other reports that individuals participating in the guaranteed income programs spend their guaranteed-income money mostly on essentials and only 3% on travel, leisure, or entertainment.

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