Gov. Greg Abbott’s sharp response to to Mayor Sylvester Turner’s request to access the state’s “rainy day” fund to pay for Harvey damages may surprise you.
According to Abbott, Turner is using the state of Texas as a hostage in an effort to raise property taxes.
Abbott spoke about the issue during a press conference with state legislators and FEMA officials Tuesday afternoon.
Abbott clarified the city of Houston can send invoices for cleanup activities — such as debris removal — that will be paid out within 10 days. However, the expenses and costs must be within the bounds of the FEMA agreement.
“We have an accelerated reimbursement plan established, where we will reimburse the city for any expenses they have, along the lines of our agreement with FEMA,” Abbott said in the press conference.
“I did see the mayor?s letter where he?s asking for certain payments by the state of Texas to the city which are unprecedented,” Abbott continued. “This never happened before in the state of Texas, and it raises a concern that the mayor seems to be using this as hostage to raise taxes, when in reality, the city of In re.”
Those “hundreds of millions of dollars” are locked in TIRZ, or Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, programs, which cities are not supposed to access.
Abbott then stated that if the city could not access those funds, then the Texas Legislature would modify the laws concerning TIRZ funds so cities could use that money to pay for disaster recovery.
It’s unclear how Abbott expects the city to use TIRZ funds.
These zones help attract businesses and developers. Taxes paid on the new developments go into the TIRZ, with a promise they will be used to pay for public improvements within that zone.
Under those rules, TIRZ funds could only be used within their own zone — not across the city.
Turner’s office already responded to Abbott’s claims:
We cannot raid funds that the state has indicated cannot be raided ? and which are largely for drainage projects to prevent future flooding anyway. Mayor Turner is asking the governor to do what other governors, such as Florida?s, are doing. It?s the Texas governor?s right to say no.