Image: Fort Bend County, Texas, mostly southwest of the big city of Houston.
Conroe and Rosenberg, July 16 – Comparing Montgomery County, north of Houston and Harris County, to Fort Bend County, mostly southwest of Houston and Harris County, reveals a striking conclusion: while the Montgomery County government has obviously failed to spur economic development, its massive spending and taxation policies have kept median household income in the community lower by scaring away developers and homebuyers. While government rarely does much to cause economic development, it most certainly can scare it away, an art which Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal, Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley, and Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador seem to have perfected.
Fort Bend County versus Montgomery County
The data for Fort Bend County and Montgomery County, from the United States Census Bureau and from the County governments, reveals a stark contrast between the two communities, on the southwest and north sides of Houston and Harris County, respectively. The data follows.
Fort Bend County, which has four Republicans and one democrat on its County Commissioners Court, should suffer in a comparison with Montgomery County, because Montgomery County has gorgeous scenery and wonderful natural amenities. Montgomery County also has had five Republicans on its Commissioners Court since Precinct 2 County Commissioner Malcolm Purvis and his Operations Manager Craig Doyal switched political parties in 1998 “so that we can win,” as they told the GOP Candidates Committee.
The striking difference between Fort Bend County and Montgomery County is household income. For 2015, Fort Bend’s is $89,152 median family household income, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, while Montgomery County lagged far behind at $68,838 median family household income. What’s even more striking are the growth rates for median family household income during this decade.
Fort Bend County’s median family household income has grown more than 11.7%, a hefty jump. Montgomery County’s median family household income has only grown a little over 4.9% during this decade. Montgomery County’s median family household income growth hardly beats the national average growth of median family household income of 3.8% during the same period, as both the U.S. Census Bureau and the Federal Reserve Bank of Saint Louis (which gathers and maintains household income data as well) have confirmed.
What is causing the difference?
The Golden Hammer spoke with a group of real estate professionals who, on the condition of anonymity, provided a common answer for the problem that Montgomery County faces in comparison to Fort Bend. The massive growth of property tax appraisals, which the County government’s spending has led, has resulted in an enormous negative impact on household income. Since taxes and spending have grown so rapidly in Montgomery County, citizens of this community have substantially less discretionary income to support retail, medical, and office commercial establishments. While Fort Bend County has focused on keeping property tax valuations low in order to attract commercial business and to attract the families who spur that business upward, Montgomery County has had to increase property tax valuations as rapidly as possible in order to feed the hungry County government and the other taxing authorities in this community.
It’s an interesting question why Republicans in Montgomery County seem to behave differently from Republicans in Fort Bend. It does seem that there’s a political difference between Republicans from the two counties. In Montgomery County, there is no democrat party. In contested General Elections, Republicans garner 80% of the Montgomery County vote, as the 2012 presidential election and the 2014 gubernatorial elections showed. In Fort Bend County, one of the County Commissioners, one of the four Constables, and one of the five Justices of the Peace are democrats. The democrat party garners approximately 45 to 47% of the vote in contested General Elections countywide in Fort Bend.
That means that Republicans in Fort Bend County act a lot more like Republicans. Unlike in Montgomery County where individuals, such as Purvis and Doyal, who were natural democrats, switched to the only political party where they could possibly have a chance to win, in Fort Bend County, there are robust contests, so the democrats organize and run candidates in General Elections countywide. For that reason, Fort Bend County Republicans seem to be far more fiscally conservative than many Montgomery County Republicans. In Fort Bend, they need to act like Republicans to get their Republican base out to vote in the General Elections.
The result of the massive spending growth and contemporaneous property taxation growth – through the use of appraisal hikes under the direction of Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley and Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador who, along with former Precinct 3 County Commissioner Ed Chance, constitute a majority on the Appraisal District Board of Directors – is that real estate sellers have had a tougher time in Montgomery County than they have in Fort Bend County to attract purchasers of higher-priced homes.
The citizens of Montgomery County continue to pay a dear price for the high amount of spending and taxation in Montgomery County. While Doyal brags that the County has a AAA bond rating, mostly as a result of the massive increases in County government budgets that the so-called Republicans on the Commissioners Court have successfully gotten away with because they never face opposition in General Elections and don’t ever have to act like true Republicans, Montgomery County businesses and residents look at and feel a government that seems a whole lot more like it’s fiscally-liberal.
Remarkably, the spending growth rate of the Montgomery County government since 2010 has been approximately three times the spending growth rate of the federal government during the same time period. Craig Doyal has made B. Hussein Obama look like a “fiscal conservative” in comparison!