HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — Harris County Commissioners Court is expected to discuss the proposed tax rate and budget again this week. Tuesday's vote will determine the new budget and it has already caused a divide among commissioners.
At the last meeting two weeks ago, the two Republican commissioners -- Precinct 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey and Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle -- skipped the vote. Without them present, there weren't enough commissioners to legally move forward -- four of the five commissioners must be present to meet quorum.
Democratic Judge Lina Hidalgo said the proposed 1% budget cut is the largest in 32 years. Democrats said that without passing the new budget, they'll have more than $100 million less to fund public safety, health care and other key services.
Without a vote, the budget will remain the same as it was last year.
At a news conference on Monday, Hidalgo said that if her Republican colleagues decided to skip the vote again, it would mean Harris Health has to operate at a $45 million deficit. Overall, Democrats said they’ll have $100 million less to fund key services.
"I’ve not heard any indication that they will show up. I know they were proud not to show up last time," Hidalgo said. "If I were them, seeing the need that our community’s at with the crime wave, with overstretched hospitals, I would be saying, 'I will be there. I’m not going to let my constituents suffer.'"
Cagle and Ramsey said they believe they're helping taxpayers by blocking the vote. The Republicans said rising property values still mean that taxpayers will be paying more than last year. The Republican commissioners said Hidalgo is employing "scare tactics" in order to pass the budget.
At the time of the first scheduled vote, Ramsey said in part, "I’m not against spending money. I’m for using it properly, not wasting it."
In a statement to KHOU 11 News, Cagle said: "Much as she has done during the recent COVID pandemic, Judge Hidalgo continues to employ scare tactics about health care as a political tool. Now, in the middle of her re-election campaign, she is again trying to frighten people with irresponsible – and false – predictions about county health care when she well knows that the Harris County Hospital District is sitting on a reserve fund of more than $1.4 billion."