Commissioner Riley lobbied in Austin for higher property taxes, pro-government growth agenda

Commissioner Riley lobbied in Austin for higher property taxes, pro-government growth agenda

Image: A campaign handler gave Precinct 2 Montgomery County Commissioner Charlie Riley directions what to say right before he spoke to the Lake Conroe Area Republican Women on Thursday, February 1, 2018.

Conroe and Austin, February 4 – While the Republican Party of Texas Platform, the Montgomery County Republican Party Executive Committee, and every Republican State Senator called for statewide property tax reform, caps on tax appraisal increases, and spending growth controls, Precinct 2 Montgomery County Commissioner Charlie Riley lobbied on at least two occasions in Austin against the reforms and for unrestricted government growth during the 85th Session of the Texas Legislature in 2017.

In addition to receiving a hefty salary as a County Commissioner, Riley was also a Board of Directors member of the Montgomery Central Appraisal District who consistently voted in favor of aggressively higher reappraisals of residential and commercial properties in Montgomery County.

Riley appeared at the Texas State Capitol at least twice during the 85th Legislature to lobby for the pro-tax growth, pro-spending growth agenda of the Texas Association of Counties (TAC), the ultraliberal lobbying group that works closely with the Texas Municipal League to support government growth and to oppose any limits on government spending and taxation. Riley met with state legislators on at least two separate days in Austin to urge them to follow the TAC pro-taxation platform and to oppose statewide property tax reform, especially Senate Bill 2, Senator Paul Bettencourt’s (R-Houston) proposed legislation which would have limited property tax increases and enacted reforms of local appraisal districts. The two dates when Riley went to Austin to lobby for TAC were March 7, 2017, which was also Montgomery County Day at the Capitol, and a date during the first two weeks of April, 2017, although the three legislative staff members who provided information for this story, under condition of anonymity, were unable to ascertain the exact second date while recalling Riley was there for TAC’s pro-tax agenda.

Riley has worked very hard for Montgomery County government spending growth during his three years as a County Commissioner and during his fifteen years as the Precinct 2 Operations Manager. During that period, Montgomery County spending growth increased by 424% while population growth had only increased 84% during the same time period. Riley has voted in favor of every Fiscal Year Budget proposal and every pro-spending Budget Amendment during his three years as a member of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court.

On one occasion when Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark dared to question whether the Commissioners Court had examined the details of the proposed Budget on September 5, 2017, Riley was the Commissioner who shouted Clark down and loudly uttered profanities while citizens attempted to speak during that same public hearing.

Riley voted against a 20% homestead exemption on February 14, 2017, claiming that he was “unprepared” to consider the proposal. The 20% homestead exemption was a local option since 1989. Riley had received the resolution and budget and revenue projections four days prior to the February 14 County Commissioners Court meeting. Only after the Montgomery County Republican Party Executive Committee voted overwhelmingly in favor of the 20% homestead exemption and after conservative political activist Kelli Cook had vociferously lobbied for the measure did Riley finally come around and support it in the face of massive support for it inside Commissioners Precinct 2.

Significantly, Riley has fought for including TAC’s hefty annual dues as spending initiatives with the Montgomery County government budget which taxpayers are forced to bear.

The Montgomery County government’s budget includes annual dues of $2,440 to TAC, an anti-citizen, pro-taxation, pro-government-spending lobbying and special interest group that is vociferously fighting taxation and spending reform. As Montgomery County’s Appraisal District is one of the most aggressive taxing mechanisms in the entire State of Texas – under the leadership of the liberal Riley, Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador, former Precinct 3 County Commissioner Ed Chance, and “establishment” confidantes Bruce Tough and Tom Cox – for the Montgomery County government to funnel tax dollars into the anti-citizen TAC is a slap in the citizens’ face.

TAC is an Austin-based ultra-liberal organization. The real trick to TAC is that it’s primarily an “advocacy” organization which advocates for bigger government spending and “protections” of County government from nasty sources of interference such as local citizens. TAC wants everyone to “Trust your county to be a committed and dependable partner.” With whom your county is a “partner” is not clear, although it’s probably a “partner” with your tax dollars.

During the 85th Legislative Session, TAC’s large lobbying team, which included Riley, took the following positions:

  • Strong opposition to Senate Bill 2, the comprehensive property tax reform and appraisal district reform bill, which Bettencourt and others passed in the Senate but are finding has strong opposition from the more liberal Texas House of Representatives.
  • Strong support of legislation that will make it easier for county governments to engage in eminent domain, also known as government takings of private property.
  • Opposition to certain County jail reform proposals.
  • Strong support for more state government spending on health programs.
  • Opposition to revenue cap bills, as TAC and its members don’t want any limitations on the ability of county governments to increase local government spending and taxation.
  • Claiming that making it easier for citizens to obtain tax refunds would “create a budgeting problem for counties,” so TAC opposes Senator and former Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt’s proposed legislation, Senate Bill 1847, which would aid in that process.
  • Opposition to Representative Cecil Bell, Jr.’s (R-Magnolia) bill, House Bill 3170, relating to protection of rights of a property owner in eminent domain proceedings.
  • Oppositions on any limitations upon the amount of debt county governments may incur.
  • Opposition to legislation to require more local government openness and transparency.

Riley did not return telephone calls asking for comment.

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