Sep 28, 2022 - News

GOP holds up Harris County budget

Illustration of the GOP logo with animated typing ellipses, as if the elephant is thinking.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Harris County's two Republican commissioners were again a no-show yesterday for a key budget vote.

Why it matters: Harris County Commissioners Court needs four of five members present to approve the upcoming year's tax rate and accompanying budget, which starts Oct. 1.

  • Commissioners Jack Cagle and Tom Ramsey also skipped the Sept. 13 meeting in protest of the proposed budget and what they say is a lack of funding for law enforcement.

Yes, but: The proposal sought by the three Democrats on the court would have increased the county's more than $2 billion annual budget by $108 million for several key county departments, including $16.6 million for the sheriff's office, $23.6 million for the jail and $5.3 million for the district attorney's office, the Houston Chronicle reported.

State of play: The county was forced to — at least temporarily — adopt a flat budget for fiscal year 2023 because of Cagle's and Ramsey's absences.

  • Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said this could lead to a reduction of cadets needed to fill vacancies in his office, Community Impact reported.

Threat level: The Democrats on the court consulted with the county attorney's office yesterday to discuss legal options to compel the Republican commissioners to attend.

What they're saying: Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo previously criticized the Republican commissioners' move as a "campaign ad."

  • "Our hospital system will operate at a $45 million deficit," Hidalgo said. "A cadet class will be at risk."

The other side: Ramsey and Cagle said their absences would save taxpayers money.

Between the lines: The stunt could have implications in November, as Hidalgo, Cagle and Democratic Commissioner Adrian Garcia are all seeking re-election.

What we're watching: Democrats still have until the end of October to adopt their preferred tax rate and budget — but only if Cagle and Ramsey show.

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