OFFICIAL STATEMENT FROM COMMISSIONER TOM RAMSEY
Regarding Budget & Tax Rate for FY 2023
As we all know, there are two sides to every story. Judge Hidalgo and others would have you believe that since there was not a quorum at today’s Commissioners Court, the budget will fail. In reality, the lack of a quorum simply means that the maximum tax rate allowed by law – without voter consent – cannot be implemented. Instead, a smaller budget will be adopted.
The difference between the two budgets is $100 million. Of course, to you and I, that’s a lot of money but in a $2.2 billion budget, it’s 4.5%. That’s half of the current inflation rate.
My top priority is law enforcement. If you listen to their side of the story, this budget addresses that but let’s look at the actual facts. You’ve heard that there are 400 open positions, and you’re led to believe that those are patrol officers. That number, however, is actually all the open positions in Harris County in the Sheriff’s department, in the Jail system, in the Constable programs, and numerous other agencies. Those vacancies include administration, dispatchers, clerical and on and on. As one Constable told me, many of these positions are open because the “weight of the badge is heavy” and a lack of support from the public and elected leaders has them looking elsewhere to serve and protect.
You have to ask why there is no desire to add Constables to the budget. You have to ask why there are just raises, but not more officers patrolling our streets. Why does the Sheriff’s department get some patrol positions – which I applaud – but far more of the positions do not meet criminals face to face on our streets. What is this court doing in a time where you know what the crime rate is – you don’t have to listen to politicians debate it. Even the local paper and evening news can’t ignore the facts of historic high murders, police officers being murdered, and those committing murder out on multiple bonds. Why did Judge Hidalgo specify that the full budget will add “…35 investigators…” and “…100 detention officers…” for a jail system that hasn’t added a single cell and yet didn’t mention one patrol officer? My budget opponents say phrases like “safety and justice”. How exactly do they define those words? For me, it’s officers.
You’re also led to believe that if the maximum budget and tax rate isn’t passed, 180 flood projects will “…affect the lives of every single resident in Harris County.” Here’s the other side of the story. The difference between the two budgets for flood control is $14 million. That’s .6% of the budget – point six per cent. Flooding, of course, is important and that’s why myself and Commissioner Cagle have committed to spending $7 million each from our precinct budgets to make up the “two budgets” difference. Problem solved. Imagine what we could do if Commissioners Garcia and Ellis also pledged $7 million each.
Judge Hidalgo alluded to the fact that not passing the Voter Approved Rate budget instead of the No New Revenue budget would dramatically affect the Harris Health System. Their budget is $2.38 billion dollars. The difference between the two budgets is less than 2%. Many of Dr. Porsa’s requests and his plea for more money is for capital investments which are not a part of these budgets at all. That, however, doesn’t make for good headlines and so we are led to believe that catastrophe will strike when all it would take is for my request to have more officers to alleviate this situation.
There are other issues as well that you will be asked to fret over but do not be fooled into thinking that Harris County is on the brink of disaster because the No New Revenue budget – the lower of the two – is implemented.
One of my objections to the “Voter Approved Rate” (clever, isn’t it? You don’t actually get to approve it but that’s the official name of the budget that taxes you at a higher rate) is that it does not add officers to our Constable programs who are responsible for many Harris County residents NOT protected by Houston police. It’s quite a sizable number.
Finally, I’ve also identified over $100 million in the budget that I – and I think you – would consider waste. Those conversations, however, are not part of Judge Hidalgo, Commissioner Ellis and Commissioner Garcia’s’ plan. Those conversations aren’t allowed to be discussed in Court. If you’d like me to point you to where that’s happened publicly, I’d start with when Commissioner Cagle wasn’t even allowed to speak on adding Constables and discussion ended immediately so that the court majority could silence the concerns of voters in Precincts 3 and 4.
From the day I decided to run as your representative, I told you my focus would be first on three things – Crime, Infrastructure and Taxes. 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.
Finally, my job is not defined by attendance. My job is defined by representing the voters of Precinct 3.