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Republican Harris County Commissioner Jack Cagle proposes solution to budget, tax rate impasse

Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle said his plan would fully fund law enforcement, health care and flood control while saving taxpayers $108 million.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — One of the Harris County commissioners blocking a vote on a new budget said he has a solution to end the monthslong standoff.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle said his plan would fully fund law enforcement, health care and flood control while saving taxpayers $108 million. Cagle said he’s trying to save taxpayers money while inflation is already hurting their wallets.

More relief

“The taxpayers are wanting more relief,” Cagle said during a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

Cagle's “compromise spending plan” sets the tax rate to boost revenue by $149 million during the fiscal year, compared to a $257 million revenue increase in the county administration's original proposal.

“The way that this plan is being sold from my side is that you are going to get cops on the street. And flood control is a part of this plan," Cagle said.

RELATED: For 2nd time, 2 Harris County commissioners skip meeting to prevent vote on new budget, tax rate

Cagle, a Republican, is calling on Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo to call a special meeting on Friday. He wants a forum for commissioners to talk about the plan without the threat of a vote.

“I have heard Judge Hidalgo make comments about how she would like to have debate. I don’t know that she would support our plan, but let’s have this discussion in public in front of you the media, in front of the public," Cagle said.

Rules prevent commissioners from discussing the plan behind closed doors.

Blocking quorum

Cagle and Precinct 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey, also a Republican, skipped the last two meetings, blocking a vote on the new budget and tax rate. Without them present, there weren't enough commissioners to legally move forward. Four of the five commissioners must be present to meet quorum.

The new budget has caused a divide among commissioners.

Hidalgo said hiring freezes and fewer hospital services could happen soon.

RELATED: Harris County commissioners remain at odds over budget

“The problem is, this isn’t just any political fight. There are real tangible consequences to their decision to not show up,” Hidalgo said.

Cagle and Ramsey said residents’ tax bills will go up because appraisals are higher.

The first time they skipped the meeting to block the vote, Ramsey said, in part, "I’m not against spending money. I’m for using it properly, not wasting it."

Hidalgo hospitalized

Hidalgo tweeted Tuesday afternoon that she visited the ER on Monday due to "rising fever, pain and dehydration." She said she’s recovering at home for the next couple of days.

RELATED: Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo goes to ER for 'rising fever, pain, dehydration'

Cagle said he’s open to meeting on Saturday, too. The final day to reach a deal on the new tax rate and budget is Oct. 28.

Political back-and-forth

Last weekend, Hidalgo accused the two GOP members of playing politics and threatening funding to key departments.

Cagle and Ramsey previously accused Hidalgo of using scare tactics and telling the public false information about Harris County hospitals' financial situation.

In a previous 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."

Hidalgo' statement on proposed plan

"I’m pleased to see Commissioner Cagle make an effort toward making sure that basic Harris County services are funded. The people of Harris County deserve nothing less. Of course, I will remain only cautiously optimistic until Commissioner Cagle commits to attending the meeting where the critical action to actually vote on funding key services would take place.

"Crucially, more information is needed to fully understand the Commissioner’s high-level proposal. It’s important for Commissioner Cagle’s team to share and discuss the proposal with Harris County’s budget team so that they–and the members of Commissioners Court–can glean whether the proposal is a realistic option and so that we can put pen to paper with all the numbers. We must establish the fiscal viability of this proposal and any others that may come forward.

"As to calling a special meeting, I hesitate to do that now for two reasons: 1) I’m still waiting to be medically cleared, and 2) I want to make sure that the proposal will be presented in detail to the budget team so that we can have a fact-based conversation about it. More realistically, if the proposal is ironed out with our Budget team, I would consider calling a discussion-only meeting on Tuesday, separate from the Commissioners Court meeting later that day."

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