One state legislator wants to force some companies to let some Texans skip out on their bills, but I wonder if he’d let us skip out on our taxes as well?

Having a roof over my family’s head is a necessity, so should there be a moratorium on paying property taxes? After all, if I don’t pay my property taxes, local government can have us kicked out!

But why stop with property taxes? For many a small retailers, their very livelihood runs on very thin margins. Why should they be troubled by law enforcement if they don’t remit the taxes they collect?

The answer why is obvious: we each have obligations. Legal obligations, moral obligations, fiduciary obligations. And nearly every single one is known in advance. I know I have to pay the gas station clerk for the fuel I buy. I know the waitress will expect to be paid for the meal my kids consume.

And I know that if I don’t pay for that meal, if we skip the bill, pretty soon the restaurant won’t serve me. Or worse.

But State Rep. Sylvester Turner and other lawmakers want the state’s Public Utilities Commission to stop companies from turning off electricity in the homes of people not paying their bills when the weather was hot.

Sounds nice, even big-hearted, but it is only so much hot air.

First, no company turns off the AC after one month of non-payment. Or six. Just doesn’t happen. Those non-payment fees are a nice source of revenue. If someone manages to get their power shut off in August, it’s because they stopped paying their bills sometime the previous August.

Second, unless you live in Austin, Denton or one of the handful of other government-monopoly areas, everyone in Texas gets to shop for their electric provider; finding the rates and plans they like. Paying too much? Get a new provider.

Third, numerous non-profit agencies and churches stand ready to assist folks with making their electric bill payments. If someone has not any help, it’s because they haven’t asked.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, when government uses its heavy hand to allow some people to skip out on bills, it makes life more expensive for the rest of us. Yes, even the poor. Especially the poor.

You may not like the electric companies, but at the end of the day the electricity provided doesn’t appear magically by dancing unicorns. People who work at those companies expect to be paid. Suppliers expect to be paid. Investors expect to be paid.

As a result, companies affected by Turner’s plan would simply hike their rates to account for the non-payment.

Don’t believe it? We see that already in health care, an area where law mandates provision of service without consideration of payment. Those of us who pay our doctor bills subsidize (through both the billing and our taxes) those who don’t.

And at the end of the day, the poor who Sylvester Turner claims to want to help get hurt most. Witness the growing number of doctors who just refuse to participate in government health insurance programs. And the number of good doctors simply leaving the profession, allowing quality to slip.

It is foolish to think the same won’t happen if Turner is successful.

More mandates distancing people from the marketplace always has the effect of harming people as resources and services become ever more costly and scarce.

Or they could start being consistent, and let everyone skip out on their taxes freeing up money to pay for electric bills.

Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. He is a native Texan, a graduate of Texas A&M, and Eagle Scout. Previously, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine contributor, Capitol Hill staffer, think tank vice president. Michael and his wife have three adult children, and a dog. Check out his podcast, Reflections on Life and Liberty.

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