The Texas Supreme Court has issued a temporary administrative stay on Harris County’s guaranteed income scheme that Attorney General Ken Paxton is arguing violates state law. 

Paxton sued Harris County at the beginning of the month for its $20.5 million federally-funded basic income program called “Uplift Harris.”

The program aimed to provide $500 monthly for 18 months to nearly 1,900 Harris County families living 200 percent below the poverty line. 

The Texas Constitution forbids “any county, city, town or other political corporation or subdivision of the State… to grant public money or thing of value in aid of, or to any individual.”

According to a press release by the attorney general, the program offered public money to these families with no strings attached and under no conditions except poverty. 

After a lower court denied Paxton’s request for a temporary injunction, he filed a motion for emergency relief with the Supreme Court of Texas to halt the payouts—which were scheduled to begin tomorrow. 

“Because the first payment is scheduled to be made on Wednesday, April 24, the Attorney General requests a ruling on this motion as soon as possible, preferably by the end of the day on Tuesday, April 23, 2024,” Paxton’s motion reads. 

Just several hours later, the Texas Supreme Court granted the motion and blocked payments from any party being made pending further order of the court. 

The Texas Supreme Court posted the following statement on X:

The Supreme Court today granted an administrative stay in the State’s petition for writ of mandamus concerning the Uplift Harris guaranteed income program. Without regard to the merits, the order prohibits the County from making payments pending further order.

“Harris County’s guaranteed income scheme plainly violates the Texas Constitution,” Paxton said today. “Harris County officials cannot continue to abuse their power and the people’s money to score political points, and we will fight every step of the way to hold them accountable.”

Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee said in response to the decision, “This extraordinary act is disappointing but not surprising given how political the all-Republican court has become. I will continue to fight to protect Uplift Harris in this case.” 

The Supreme Court has requested a response from Harris County to the state’s motion by 4:30 pm on April 29. 

Will Biagini

Will was born in Louisiana and raised in a military family. He currently serves as a journalist with Texas Scorecard. Previously, he was a senior correspondent for Campus Reform.

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.