Arizona GOP Votes to Ban Basic Income Despite High Homeless Rate


Arizona Republican lawmakers appear to be in full agreement: A guaranteed basic income is a disastrous idea.

The Arizona House of Representatives voted Thursday in favor of a bill that would prohibit guaranteed basic income programs in the state, despite Arizona grappling with the fourth-highest rate of homelessness in the nation.

No Democrat voted in favor of the bill. But the Republican majority voted unanimously.

Basic income programs, which offer segments of society no-strings-attached payments, are gaining traction across the nation as a way to address the wealth gap and reduce poverty.

The bill’s author, Republican Rep. Lupe Diaz, has compared such programs to socialism, calling the payments “unearned.” Diaz did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

The legislation bans “any program where persons are provided with regular, periodic cash payments that are unearned and that may be used for any purpose.” It doesn’t include work or training programs.

The bill still needs to pass the state Senate before it can become law. The state Senate consists of 30 members, 16 Republicans and 14 Democrats.

Guaranteed basic income programs typically support qualifying families or individuals, often those living at or near the poverty line, with regular government payments for a set period. They are a more targeted version of a universal basic income, which gives funds to entire populations regardless of their income or other considerations.

Dozens of cities and states have toyed with various styles of no-strings-attached cash assistance in recent years.

In Baltimore, the Young Families Success Fund, for instance, gives young mothers $1,000 a month. A program in Oregon gives $1,000 monthly payments to youth living below the poverty line.

A senior director at Point Source Youth, a national youth homelessness nonprofit that helped facilitate the Oregon program, told Business Insider that participants said they used the funds to obtain housing, enroll in school, and purchase cars.

Another program in Austin that gave $1,000 monthly payments to low-income families found that participants were “substantially more housing secure” one year into the program than when they enrolled. The report found that participants, on average, said they spent more than half of the payments they received on housing.

Yet despite the apparent success of the programs, some state lawmakers — largely Republicans who say the programs discourage recipients from working — are trying to ban them.

One basic income program in Harris County, Texas — where Houston is located — is under constitutional review by the state’s attorney general after a Republican state lawmaker requested a review. The Uplift Harris program is using $20.5 million of COVID-19 relief funds to support $500 monthly payments for low-income families.

Republicans in other states have also introduced bans similar to the one proposed in Arizona. In Iowa, Republican state Rep. Steve Holt introduced a bill to ban basic income programs last month, calling them “socialism on steroids.”

Another basic income ban in South Dakota passed through a committee 8 to 1 along party lines on February 5 and is now headed to the state senate.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. John Wiik, said basic income programs are a “socialist idea” during a committee meeting on February 5.

“Guaranteed income programs, also known as basic income, undercut the dignity in earning a dollar, and they’re a one-way ticket to government dependency,” Wiik said in the hearing.


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