Texas Abandons Efforts To Penalize Harris County For Its Expenditures On Law Enforcement

The latest dispute between Republican state officials and Democratic county executives in the most populous county in the state was resolved on Monday when Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar withdrew his claim that Harris County “defunded” a constable’s office in violation of a state law intended to prevent cities and counties from cutting their police budgets.

In February, Hegar charged Harris County officials with reducing the constable’s budget without obtaining voter consent, as required by a 2021 state law created in response to the George Floyd demonstrations.

Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee sued Hegar on the county’s behalf after the comptroller denied the county’s request to determine its property tax rate.

State and county officials reached different judgments regarding whether Harris County actually reduced that constable’s budget as a result of local government specifics and numerical inconsistencies.

In the end, Harris County prevailed; Hegar vacated his decision on Monday, allowing the county to once more determine its tax rate.

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Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo issued a statement saying “thank you to Comptroller Hegar for abandoning the action against Harris County after realizing it was without substance.”

“It’s not our responsibility to explain the law or mathematics to the Chief Financial Officer of the State of Texas, but that is what [we] had to do to prevent state officials from intimidating our communities,”

An equation became the crux of the argument.

In order to make the transition to a new 12-month budget cycle, Harris County authorities created a seven-month spending plan last year. County officials allocated $28.6 million in that more condensed plan to support Harris County Constable Ted Heap’s office.

The county returned to a 12-month budget cycle this year, and $46.6 million was set aside for Heap.

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