Harris County Budget calling for increased funding to fight violent crime, improve jails, criminal justice system passes

Here's what we know

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas – In a 3-2 vote, Harris County Commissioners approved the short fiscal year 2022 proposed budget and for the fiscal year 2023. It means more money will now be available to fight crime across Harris County.

Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioner Adrian Garcia held a news conference Monday to discuss the county administrator’s budget proposal for the short Fiscal Year 2022 and the upcoming full Fiscal Year 2023.

The county administrator’s budget for FY23 includes nearly $1.4 billion for justice and safety programs without requiring a tax rate increase. This includes funding for increased staffing, healthcare, and technology at the jail, additional investigators, prosecutors, and patrol officers focused on violent crime, and new investments in reducing disparities within the criminal justice system.

The judge said the county administrator’s proposal includes 400 vehicles for the sheriff’s office and constables, increased salaries and overtime for the district attorney’s office, 60 additional detention officers at the jail, and additional sheriff’s patrol deputies.

A spokesman for the judge said taking into account the constable’s contract program and sheriff’s overtime, that would mean an increase of about 100 additional boots on the ground.

“We cannot pretend that there is a silver bullet solution to all of this and if you hear anybody pretending that, then please don’t get taken for a ride,” said Hidalgo, who called the proposal “an all of the above approach.”

Commissioner Garcia discussed the proposal for higher pay at the DA’s office.

“The district attorney herself has identified that recruiting and retaining are amongst the top of her challenges,” Garcia said. “This will allow us to help her stabilize her office and then, with future budget recommendations, the potential of adding staff.”

Commissioner Jack Cagle took issue with the budget proposal, saying county leaders got proposals from the law enforcement community about what they desire.

“The judge is substituting her list of priorities as far as what she thinks they should have in terms of addressing the problems that we’ve had with rising crime here in Harris County,” said Cagle, who’s proposing a different budget.

The judge did not specifically name names on Monday afternoon but said the alternative being proposed by two colleagues includes “draconian cuts” and cannot be considered a serious proposal.

A spokesman for Judge Hidalgo told KPRC 2 the amendments proposed by Commissioners Tom Ramsey and Jack Cagle have effectively been killed.

Watch the full press conference below:

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