Harris County Officials to File Lawsuit Against Comptroller Glenn Hegar

Harris County officials approved filing a lawsuit against Texas Comptroller Glenn over his claims that Harris County is defunding law enforcement.
Harris County officials approved filing a lawsuit against Texas Comptroller Glenn over his claims that Harris County is defunding law enforcement. Screenshot
To curb repeated attempts to block Harris County from adopting a new tax rate, county officials voted to file a lawsuit on Thursday against Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar.

Hegar is claiming the county is defunding law enforcement by cutting funding by $2.4 million in its 2023-24 budget. He says without voter approval that is a violation of Texas law. He also stated the county would be unable to adopt a tax rate for the next year that exceeds the no-new-revenue rate if there was no resolution to this funding reduction.

However, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo continued to label Hegar’s claims bogus at a press conference before the special meeting of County Commissioner’s Court.

“These are unfounded claims on our budget, and not only that but the unfounded claims threaten to destabilize our ability to set an appropriate budget for law enforcement, flood control and very important basic services,” Hidalgo said
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Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo rebuked Hegar's claims at a press conference on Thursday morning.
Following the press conference, the Harris County Commissioners Court approved proceeding with the lawsuit in a 4 to 1 vote, with Republican Precinct 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey the sole nay vote.

This is not the first time that Hegar has gone after Harris County with claims that the county defunds local law enforcement. Last August, Hegar accused Harris County officials of failing to provide $3 million in “rollover” funds and instead placing the money in general funds.

He also stated commissioners couldn’t adopt the 2023 fiscal year budget if they did not reverse the allocation of these funds.

In that case, Harris County officials responded with legal action against Hegar. The lawsuit ended with a court-approved agreement for Hegar to withdraw his claims and allow the county commissioners to adopt their proposed budget and tax rate.

“Hegar is trying to do the same thing again and he’s making false claims to spin us around to weave a false narrative,” Hidalgo said. “And like last year, we will show him and his allies who seem to be struggling with basic accounting and math.”

Hegar’s claims come after an investigation into a complaint filed by Republican Precinct 5 Constable Ted Heap stating the same concern Hegar has over the decreased allotment of funds to Precinct 5.

“After careful review, I found that the complaint provides evidence of a reduction of funding for a law enforcement agency when comparing the adopted budget for the current fiscal year to the adopted budget for the preceding fiscal year,” Hegar wrote in a press release.

Though both Hegar and Heap are claiming a decrease in the budget, Hidalgo, backed by Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee, is asserting that Hegar’s calculations of the annualized budget are incorrect.
In Hidalgo’s tweet, she asserted that when annualizing the budgets, Hegar shortened the county’s pay period and fiscal year in 2022, which resulted in the incorrect annualized budget of $48.9 million.

Hidalgo said that if Hegar were to factor in the county’s 26 pay periods during the 12 months of Harris County’s fiscal year, then the calculations would result in $46.7 million and indicate a $2 million increase between the 2022 and 2023 fiscal years.

Hegar insisted that though Harris County officials would use this approach, calculating with two different multipliers and excluding two pay periods to oppose his findings, he was still adamant the math indicated a funding shortfall of $2.3 million.

Heger's letter:
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Faith Bugenhagen is on staff as a news reporter for The Houston Press, assigned to cover the Greater-Houston area.