Texas Comptroller: Harris County budget is ‘defunding the police’

By Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar

There is no greater responsibility for an elected official than ensuring the safety of our fellow citizens. Our duty to those who have elected us begins and ends with ensuring that families and businesses who call Texas home remain safe and secure.

Texas law enforcement forms the foundation of this duty, and, unlike other states, the Texas Legislature has fought to ensure that the “defund the police” movement has no place in our cities, communities and neighborhoods. Lawmakers and state leadership in Texas are committed to preventing the disastrous policies that have led to the mass exodus of businesses and families from crime-ridden, liberal cities.

My office remains vigilant and continues to review complaints against entities that may be either deliberately or inadvertently defunding police.

On Dec. 14, 2022, my office received a request from Gov. Greg Abbott’s Criminal Justice division to investigate a complaint from Constable Ted Heap of Harris County Constable Office Precinct 5. The complaint is summarized below:

The Harris County 2023 fiscal year adopted budget reduced the resources available to Precinct 5 by $2,367,444 compared to the previous year’s annualized budget.

Local Government Code Section 120.007(a) requires my office, on request by the Office of the Governor, to determine whether a county has implemented a proposed reduction or reallocation described by Local Government Code Section 120.002(a) without the required voter approval. 

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.

The complaint alleges that the Harris County fiscal year 2023 budget reduces the overall funding for Precinct 5 when compared to the Harris County short fiscal year (SFY) 2022 budget, once annualized on a month-to-month basis. We confirmed that the annualized SFY 2022 adopted budget for Precinct 5 was $48,949,795, as compared to $46,582,350 for the fiscal year 2023 adopted budget. Undoubtedly, Harris County will once again use a convoluted approach with two different multipliers and exclude two pay periods to argue otherwise, yet the math is clear and straightforward. The funding shortfall is $2,367,444.86. 

This issue was at the center of a debate concerning the Harris County budget in the fall of 2022, when a determined coalition of citizens, elected officials and members of the law enforcement community stood firm and forced Harris County to adopt a “no-new-revenue” property tax rate for fiscal year 2023. These efforts are saving property taxpayers in Harris County nearly a quarter of a billion dollars. 

The root cause of that debate, however, remains unresolved. Judge Lina Hidalgo and the Harris County Commissioners Court are defunding the police. 

From the beginning, I have advocated for a local solution, and it is my sincere hope that such a solution can be reached long before Harris County begins budget deliberations for fiscal year 2024. I am confident that lawmakers, who are currently gathered in Austin for the 88th Texas Legislature, are paying close attention to this situation. They are monitoring this carefully to see if further action must be taken to ensure Texas law enforcement agencies and personnel have the resources needed to keep Texans safe. Texans are watching and hoping that our cities will avoid the fate of so many cities around the nation that have undermined police and failed to hold criminals accountable for their actions. Therefore, based on the results of my investigation, Harris County may not adopt an ad valorem tax rate that exceeds the county’s no-new-revenue tax rate until the earliest of the following: my office issues a written determination; the county has resolved the funding reduction; or the funding reduction has been approved in an election.


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