HOUSTON (KIAH) — On Monday, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar took back his determination that Harris County illegally reduced funding for Harris County Precinct 5 Constable’s office. His original determination was announced in February.
The reversal of the decision came shortly after Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee filed a lawsuit against him on the determination.
Both Hegar, a Republican, and Democratic Harris County officials each tried to claim victory in the matter.
“I’m glad the Comptroller admitted his error and is no longer holding Harris County’s budget process hostage,” Menefee said in a statement. “I hope that in the future, we can talk through these types of allegations, as the law requires, before the Comptroller makes a final decision.”
However, Hegar claims that his decision to rescind the defunding of Harris County was because of a review which showed that District 5 was being defunded, but in the context of countywide budget reductions, therefore allowable under state law.
“I applaud Harris County and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo for finally admitting that they defunded law enforcement,” Hegar said in a statement. “The fact that they defunded police as part of larger cuts to the county’s overall budget is in no way an indication of Judge Hidalgo’s commitment to public safety. Rather, it is a convenient excuse ironically only available to her thanks to the courageous efforts of Harris County Commissioner Tom Ramsey and former Commissioner Jack Cagle who stood firm against Judge Hidalgo’s efforts to put her political career above the safety of Harris County residents. Their actions saved county taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and brought the county budget in line with the cuts already planned for county constables.”
According to Menefee, Texans expect their elected officials to solve problems even when there’s a disagreement. His hope is that the Comptroller will handle this differently next time.
Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia says that the withdrawal is proof of what they’ve already known: that Harris County fully funds police. He says he’d like to thank County Attorney Christian Menefee for reassuring that we had facts and the law on their side.
With Hegar’s determination reversal, this means the county can adopt its tax rate.
“Thank you to Comptroller Hegar for withdrawing the lawsuit against Harris County after recognizing it was meritless,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said in a statement. “It’s not our job to explain the law or math to the Chief Financial Officer of the State of Texas, but that is what he had to do to stop state officials from bullying our communities.
“As a final reminder, Harris County has increased the budgets for law enforcement every year since I took office. This is true even though, sadly, we were not able to give planned raises to the tune of $100 million to our hard-working Harris County Sheriff’s Deputies, Constables’ Deputies, Assistant District Attorneys, or Detention Officers because two allies of Hegar boycotted our budget vote,” Hidalgo continued.
“Comptroller Hegar, like some other far-right officials, believe it’s good for their base to be anti-Harris County, but that doesn’t make their attacks less false or less offensive.”
Hegar did say he will continue to monitor the Harris County budget to see if Hidalgo and the Democrats on the commissioner’s court will try to take any more funds away from law enforcement in the county.
“Removing rollover budgets, refusing to allow law enforcement agencies to hire patrol officers and other staff despite budgeting for those positions, claiming that planting trees and striping bike lanes is law enforcement – these are just some of the tactics Judge Hidalgo has used to hide the plain truth,” Hegar said. “She doesn’t support police, and she doesn’t value the safety of Harris County families, businesses and communities. That is why I am working with lawmakers to provide the people of Texas with real transparency on this issue.”