Harris County Commissioner R. Jack Cagle missed only his third meeting in more than eight years on Oct. 8 and, in doing so, cast what he believes was one of his most important votes.
By declining to attend that day’s Commissioners Court meeting, commissioners Cagle and Steve Radack denied the court a quorum and blocked what Cagle called an “unwise, unfair and unjustified” tax increase from being imposed on Harris County residents.
Longstanding state law designed to protect taxpayers from controversial tax hikes requires that at least four of five members be present at meetings at which a tax increase is to be enacted. Because there was no quorum at the meeting, state law mandated that the county’s tax rate revert to the “effective rate,” meaning Cagle and Radack’s absence actually forced a cut in the tax rate.
“The residents of Precinct 4 elected me to represent them. They did not elect me to lord over them or to repress them,” Cagle said. “This is the taxpayers’ money, not the government’s.”
Cagle said he decided he would use the state law to block the tax hike shortly after a majority of Commissioners Court – County Judge Lina Hidalgo and commissioners Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia – voted to impose the tax hike that would have collected an additional $222 million in taxes from county residents.
“Although proponents of this tax increase tried to couch it in terms of public safety and flood prevention, the truth is that only 5.5 percent of that revenue would have gone toward flood control,” Cagle said. “Most of it would have drained into the county’s general fund for members of the court majority to spend as they like. I believe we owe our constituents better transparency.”