Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Monday backed off 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, ending the latest standoff between the state’s Republican leaders and Democratic officials heading the state’s most populous county.
Hegar accused Harris County leaders in February of cutting the constable’s budget without getting voter approval — a requirement under a 2021 state law passed in the wake of the George Floyd protests. The comptroller barred the county from being able to set their property tax rate, which prompted Harris County officials to sue Hegar.
Local government technicalities and number-punching differences led state and county officials to opposite conclusions of whether Harris County did in fact reduce that constable’s budget.
Ultimately, Harris County won the argument — with Hegar rescinding his finding Monday and allowing the county to once again set its tax rate.
“I’m glad the Comptroller admitted his error and is no longer holding Harris County’s budget process hostage,” Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee said in a statement. “I hope that in the future, we can talk through these types of allegations, as the law requires, before the Comptroller makes a final decision.”
The fight hinged on a math problem.
Harris County officials adopted a seven-month spending plan last year as it transitioned to a new 12-month budget schedule. In that shorter plan, county officials set aside $28.6 million to fund Harris County Constable Ted Heap’s office. This year, the county is back on a 12-month budget cycle and allocated $46.6 million for Heap.
But Heap believed his office should’ve received more. He complained to Gov. Greg Abbott’s office and Hegar launched an investigation.
The comptroller estimated that based on the money Heap spent each month during last year’s shorter cycle, the constable should’ve gotten about $48.9 million this year. Hegar argued that Harris County shortchanged Heap by about $2.3 million.
County officials shot back by using Hegar’s calculation method against him. If they compared Heap’s budget this year and last year, like Hegar did, the constable’s share now actually represents a bigger slice of the county’s budget than it did then. The law also says that if a city or county’s budget is less than the previous year’s budget, the share of funds set aside for a law enforcement agency can’t fall — a standard Harris County did not violate.
See here for the previous update, and here for what happened the last time we were subject to this bullshit. Hegar is out there claiming he was right anyway, a bold move when you just publicly conceded you were wrong. This is all too stupid and annoying for words. The Chron has more.