Gregg County judge urges ‘fighting Austin’ in ‘State of the county’ speech

East Texas News at 6.
Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 6:46 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - A different kind of ‘state of the county’ address was given today for citizens of one East Texas county.

It wasn’t about growth or new business, but warning against state overreach in authority.

At Pinecrest Country Club, Gregg County judge Bill Stoudt stepped to the podium to lay out what he perceives as a problem.

“Every two years when the legislature meets, it’s the most dangerous time for everybody meeting in this room. They pass laws that affect you,” the judge said.

Specifically Judge Stoudt is referring to Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 3, which concerns control of municipal and county funds.

“We cannot adjust our revenues. We have no control over our tax rate any longer,” Stoudt said,

Officials said it breaks down to the simplest possible definition: Self determination.

“Self determination. It’s about the community’s right to determine what they want to look like. So don’t tell us what’s right for Longview, or White Oak, or Kilgore, or Gladewater,” said Kilgore City Manager Josh Selleck.

In a roundtable forum, city managers from four Gregg county municipalities spoke on how their growth and even day to day operations have been hampered by what they describe as Austin overreach.

“The money that’s not coming in. And that’s going to continue, we’re going to be facing that years down the road,” said Charlie Smith, Gladewater city manager.

“The legislature continues to pass laws that moves the authority and ordinance-making powers to Austin, then they tell us what they want us to do. They actually are discussing a law that would eliminate us coming down and talking to them. Does that sink in with anybody here,” said Stoudt.

“We continue to see the legislature stepping in, making mistakes, having to go back and fix it,” Selleck said.

In the end, the forum called on citizens to join the effort by using a bar code to let Austin know their opposition.

“Please get involved, please be aware,” said Stoudt.

Judge Stoudt said counties and cities can now only increase their tax base, and may have to look at debt spending for future projects.