Every month in Houston and a few other parts of Texas, our electric bills include a fee — about $1 for the average household – to help the state’s poor and elderly pay for air-conditioning. But this year, during one of the hottest summers on record, the vast majority of that money isn’t being used to help grandmas or laid-off workers survive the killer heat. Instead, the money is lying dormant, trapped by our Legislature’s shell-game state budget.
Mealy-mouthed legislators call the shuffling the redirection of a dedicated fund. We call it stealing – both from electric ratepayers and from the poor and elderly.
As the Dallas Morning News recently reported, so far this fiscal year, the state has collected $130 million in those electric-bill fees but released only $28 million in aid. That unspent money and its interest have been adding up: By the end of our next two-year budget cycle, the state will have nearly $1 billion sleeping in the account.
Is a policy analyst consultant for TCAP, a coalition of political subdivisions in Texas that purchase electricity in the deregulated market for their own governmental use. Because energy costs are typically a significant budget item to our members, TCAP is consistently looking for ways to save our members money, through cost-saving contracts, energy efficiency or demand response programs.