It's Emmett v. Bacarisse in a battle about whose tax cut is less puny.
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and opponent Charles Bacarisse waged a spirited and sometimes testy debate Tuesday over how much the county's property tax rate should be cut.
At one point, Emmett accused Bacarisse of so mischaracterizing his stance that he may file a defamation suit this week.
Emmett said he could ask a court to order Bacarisse, the former Harris County district clerk, to retract a flier mailed out last week by Bacarisse's campaign saying Emmett "has not once publicly called for property tax relief."
Bacarisse later called the judge's comments "laughable"
"He's on the defensive because the tax cut he's advocating is five times smaller than the one I'm seeking," Bacarisse said. "Because he's less bold in his proposal, he's coming up with distractions to take away from our proposal."
Both Bacarisse and Emmett have proposed cuts in the county's property tax rate. The overall county tax rate of 63.99 cents per $100 of assessed value is composed of four levies, including one each for the Port of Houston Authority, the Harris County Hospital District and the Harris County Flood Control District.
One could buy lunch with the 1-cent rate cut suggested by Emmett -- a $12 annual savings for the average homeowner slated to pay $754 in property taxes this year. An entire family could have lunch on the 5-cent cut put forward by Bacarisse -- a $58 yearly savings for the average homeowner.
The cut being pushed by Bacarisse would trim county revenues by about $125 million. Emmett's would decrease revenues by $25 million.
During Tuesday's public hearing at Commissioners Court, Emmett grilled Bacarisse about which programs would be cut if revenues were reduced by $125 million. He said the county could not continue to provide needed services if Bacarisse's cut went through.
He added that the county's bond ratings would suffer if that much revenue was lost.
Bacarisse said the bond ratings could decline slightly, and the county would survive.
"Sir, I think we've been too focused on Wall Street and not Main Street," he said.
Emmett replied, "I think that's a great line. Mark White used it back in his gubernatorial race."