Harris County votes to file lawsuit against Texas over 'defunding' law enforcement allegations

Chaz Miller Image
Friday, September 2, 2022
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"We just need to give their piggybank back." The Harris County commissioners' court is preparing to take a budget battle against Austin to the courts. But before the gavel strikes, commissioners were met with backlash over constable's offices' rollover funds.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- Harris County Commissioners Court voted by a 3-to-1 margin to proceed with filing a lawsuit against the State of Texas following allegations that the county is defunding law enforcement in its proposed budget for the 2023 fiscal year.

New state law says counties with more than 1 million citizens must put a budget proposal on the ballot if it takes money away from public safety entities.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said the county is not defunding any peace officers.

"Harris County residents are caught up as collateral in Gov. (Greg) Abbott's latest political stunt," she said in a statement.

Some attendees of Wednesday morning's Commissioners Court meeting disagreed with Hidalgo's stance during public comments.

"We have had enough. Do you hear me? We've had enough. We love our police," a woman attending the meeting said.

The issue that caused these accusations has to do with rollover funds. In the past, Harris County law enforcement entities with money left over from a previous year's budget would have it automatically added to the next one.

That's no longer the case, but Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner R. Jack Cagle, who voted not to proceed legally, said it should remain that way.

"(State Comptroller Glenn) Hegar's ruling was there was $20 million, and then there was not," Cagle said. "To sue the State of Texas over that is ridiculous - we just need to give (constables) their penny bank back."

Without including those rollover funds, the proposed budget does provide more money to all Harris County law enforcement entities.

The Harris County administrator and budget officer David Berry told ABC13 the proposal would be the biggest investment in public safety Harris County has ever made.

Hidalgo says if recent actions from the state prevent the budget from passing by October, then the county's government will screech to a halt.

"The last thing our community needs is to have their public health, their law enforcement actually defunded by the state," Hidalgo said. "But, if they're going to try to do this, we have to fight back."

The 2023 fiscal year begins Oct. 1 in Harris County.

SEE ALSO:

Harris Co. budget in jeopardy after 2 constables claim funding lowered

Is Harris County defunding police in proposed 2023 budget?

Harris County public safety news conference turns after Judge Lina Hidalgo questioned on spending

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