Image: December 14, 2017, Liberty Belles Republican Women County Judge Debate featuring State Representative Mark Keough (left) who is running against Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal (right).
Conroe, December 15 – State Representative Mark Keough, running for Montgomery County Judge against incumbent Craig Doyal, accused Doyal and the present County government of “Enron accounting” with respect to the massive government spending increases and use of slush fund accounts to hide the spending. Their debate occurred during a special meeting of the Liberty Belles Republican Women on December 14, 2017, at Panorama Village Club in Conroe.
Doyal lied to the audience when he told the crowd that he had urged each County Department to reduce its spending by 5% during the budget considerations for the Fiscal Year 2018 County Budget. In fact, as Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack has confirmed, Doyal instructed County Departments to ignore the calls of Noack and Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark for across-the-board 5% spending decreases. Doyal’s statement that “we saw a 5% across-the-board cut in the budget” was also false. While approximately nine departments reduced spending by 5%, most departments held their budgets at par or increased spending. The only reason the County government budget was reduced was because Noack had shown County Auditor Phyllis Martin how to reduce the County’s annual debt service by approximately $21 million. Otherwise, with Doyal’s massive new spending proposals, Montgomery County citizens would have suffered a tax rate hike.
Doyal emphasized that he didn’t want to reduce County government spending. “We have a duty to maintain services to give our children and grandchildren the same future we have.” Keough, on the other hand, stressed that taxes take liberty and freedom away from the families of children. Keough noted that Doyal has taken “money from debt service but not cut spending at all. There are opportunities across the board, especially with the money that the County government has hidden in reserves.”
Keough called for zero-based budgeting. Doyal stressed that he wanted to continue to increase government spending.
Keough and Doyal began the debate with a sharp contrast. Keough recounted how, during his time serving in the Texas Legislature, people from across Texas would ask him, “What’s going on in Montgomery County?” Keough explained, “We have a black eye. We’re a divided community. We need a change. It’s not about what I want; it’s what the people want.” Doyal retorted that other government officials with whom he speaks have expressed envy that Doyal has gotten away with doing some of the things he’s done.
The sharpest disagreement came during the discussion of tollroads. Doyal argued that tollroads are necessary because “what we’re paying gas taxes and road taxes is not enough to fund the roads.” Keough, on the other hand, argued, “Tollroads are another form of taxation. The State government has taken a strong stand against tollroads. In fact Tx-249 is the only new tollroad on the books. Tollroads are against the Republican Party Platform, and tollroads need to end.”
In defending the tollroad, Doyal noted that citizens and business leaders in Tomball and communities outside of Montgomery County are very much in favor of the Tx-249 Tollway. Keough argued that Montgomery County citizens are overwhelmingly against the Tx-249 Tollway.
Doyal was very proud of the one cent tax rate reduction for Fiscal Year 2017. Keough noted, however, that Montgomery County citizens suffered tax increases, even with the one cent rate reduction, because property tax appraisals are rising 9 to 10% per year on average.
Keough criticized Doyal for the conflicts of interest Doyal has, “his connections to people who receive road bond money.” Keough added, “conflicts of interest need to be eliminated.”
Doyal’s response was quite weak: “I’ve dissolved any business ties with those people.”
Keough argued, “Government doesn’t give us liberty. God gives us liberty. Government only takes it away.” The challenger also noted that the Montgomery County government needs to have a “servant mentality that ‘we serve’ and not ‘we rule.'”
Woodlands Parkway Extension
After voters overwhelmingly rejected the Woodlands Parkway Extension in the May, 2015, bond referendum, most citizens thought that would be the end of that proposal. Keough, however, explained that Doyal and Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley have merely renamed the project “Wood Trace” and plan to proceed ahead with the road which they hope will feed traffic to their $95 million, 4.5 mile, Tx-249 Tollway, also known as the Decimation of Hope Highway.
Judge Sadler’s post-debate reaction
Former Montgomery County Judge Alan B. Sadler spoke with The Golden Hammer after the debate. Sadler commented, “I wanted to hear what will happen with spending of future funds in the County government. When will the taxpayers get their turn?”