Houston law enforcement faces budget cuts after Harris County Commissioners Court meeting

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Wednesday, September 14, 2022
Law enforcement faces budget cuts after Harris Co. court meeting
Without at least one republican commissioner present, the county is forced to adopt the previous fiscal year's budget, which did not include extra money for law enforcement.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Harris County's newly proposed budget could soon be thrown out, simply because two commissioners did not show up for the scheduled vote.

At Tuesday's Commissioner's Court meeting, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and two Democrat commissioners were not enough to hold a vote on the new county budget.

Republican commissioners Tom Ramsey and Jack Cagle skipped the meeting because the budget did not include extra money for law enforcement.

"By refusing to show up, they are effectively making these cuts happen," Commissioner Adrian Garcia said.

Without at least one of them present, the county will be forced to adopt the budget from the previous fiscal year.

Garcia said Ramsey has not tried to negotiate or come to a solution.

"No ideas," Garcia said. "No ideas. It's been all or nothing."

Ramsey said law enforcement is his top priority.

In a statement to ABC13, Ramsey said in part, "I'm not against spending money. I'm for using it properly, not wasting it, not passing it out to 'friendly' consultants, and I will continue to represent you with those priorities for your family and mine."

Adopting 2021's fiscal year budget will cause millions of dollars worth of cuts. An impact commissioners say residents will feel when it comes to flood control in the county, the court system's backlog, and law enforcement staffing.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzales tweeted his department's budget is now slated to be $42 million less, and the significant reduction will derail efforts to fight crime, increase response times, and further strain jail operations.

"By not spending more as the population grows, you're having to decrease the level of service for everyone," Hidalgo said.

She said each new fiscal year will be harder for the county to make up for this year's cuts.

"You're chipping away at the justice of the peace, the probate court, all the courts, at a time where we have a crime backlog, and we're trying to tackle this crime rate. We're beginning to bring it down, but it's really a very difficult gut punch because it's going to make it harder for us to continue tackling that crime rate," Hidalgo said.

ABC13 reached out to Ramsey and Cagle for an interview but has not heard a response.