Compromise offered to snap Harris County budget stalemate

Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle attempting to break a pro-longed funding impasse by offering a compromise to the Democratic majority controlling Harris County government. 

"I'm calling their bluff," said Cagle.

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At the core of the deal is a tax rate that would lower the amount Harris County property owners pay next year by $108 million from the $257 million hike proposed by Commissioners Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia with the support of Judge Lina Hidalgo. 

If accepted, that would still insure Hidalgo and allies a year-over-year increase of $149 million local tax dollars in new funding. 

"It means we are reducing the grab from the public. If we are going to reach into their pockets and ask them to give more of their hard-earned dollars, coming out of the pandemic and after Harvey, we need to give them something tangible that they believe is worthwhile," said Cagle 

As in better "public safety." 

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Cagle says his compromise would erase a purported deficit at the Hospital District, boost spending at flood control by $24 million, and fund the hiring of 200 additional patrol officers to counter the crime wave, while also delivering a long-awaited pay raise to all county peace officers. 

"There have been a lot of proposals for law enforcement, but they have not addressed the need for boots on the ground and the need for additional salaries," said Cagle. 

Cagle challenged Hidalgo to call a "discussion only" meeting of Commissioners Court by Friday for a fully transparent unpacking of his proposal. 

"Let's have this discussion in public, in front of you the media, in front of the public," said Cagle. 

Cagle and fellow Republican Commissioner Tom Ramsey have thus far denied the Democratic majority the quorum necessary to push through the proposed tax rate and subsequent tax increase.

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In a late afternoon statement following treatment at a local emergency room for pain and dehydration, Hidalgo offered the following response: 

"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." 

A spokesman for Commissioner Adrian Garcia says he is "open" to the idea of a "discussion-only" meeting to debate the merits of the proposed compromise.