Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and the Democratic faction of the Harris County Commissioners Court say they suspect that GOP power brokers are pushing the court’s two Republican commissioners to continue skipping Commissioners Court meetings. 

GOP Commissioners Jack Cagle and Tom S. Ramsey were absent for the fifth consecutive meeting of the Commissioners Court on Tuesday. Hidalgo opened the meeting by voicing her suspicions that individuals higher up in the Republican party were swaying Cagle and Ramsey towards not showing up, though she said she doesn’t “know who clipped their wings.” 

“It’s very apparent that there is an effort beyond Harris County to do everything possible to try to stem the tide of Democrats winning elections in major Texas counties, ” Commissioner Adrian Garcia said prior to Tuesday’s meeting.  

The Precint 2 commissioner said he is confident that the effort to push Cagle and Ramsey to skip meetings comes from higher-level power brokers within the Texas GOP, and that it “may well come from beyond” the state-level party infrastructure. 

“I don’t know how high up the food chain it goes,” Garcia said. 

Ramsey could not immediately be reached for comment. A spokesperson for Cagle declined request for comment on Tuesday.

Hidalgo made forceful remarks along the same lines during Monday’s special session, which Cagle and Ramsey likewise did not attend: “They promised to be here today.. and then politics intruded… someone in the counsels of their party decided that it would be inconvenient politically to try to solve the problems we’re facing. Let’s call things what they are,” Hidalgo said Monday.

Hidalgo and Garcia’s comments mark the latest in an ongoing dispute over the Democratic-controlled court’s proposed annual budget, which has sparked a string of no-shows from the body’s conservative members (as well as public displays of opposition from Harris County law enforcement). 

Both Cagle and Ramsey have skipped multiple consecutive meetings of the Commissioners Court in recent weeks over a scheduled vote on a proposed county budget and tax rate for fiscal year 2023. In a statement posted on Twitter Monday morning, Cagle said, “I will not negotiate with a knife to my throat, and I will not consent to the plan by some of my colleagues on Commissioners Court to foist a $257 million tax increase on the taxpayers of Harris County.” 

The Republican commissioners’ absences have stalled the 2023 county budget proposed by the court’s three Democrat commissioners. State law requires four members of the court to be present in order to vote on the county tax rate and annual budget. If a new budget and tax rate are not approved by October 28, the county will adopt a “no new revenue” budget. 

In the case of a “no new budget” scenario, the county will collect the same sum of tax revenue levied in the previous year plus revenue from properties added to county rolls in 2022, with the latter taxed at the 2021 rate.    

Hidalgo clarified during Tuesday’s meeting that the Court’s rules require them to adopt a tax rate by Oct. 28 and that the body will return to discussions of the tax rate on Oct. 25. 

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