McALLEN, RGV – The president of the Greater McAllen Association of Realtors says he supports the creation of a healthcare district for Hidalgo County.

However, at a news conference held by GMAR, Adrian A. Arriaga said he is opposed to Proposition 1, the healthcare district referendum that is on the ballot in the Nov. 8 general election.

“It is necessary a healthcare district be set up, not the way it is being proposed or funded. There are many ways to fund a healthcare district,” Arriaga said, in answer to a reporter’s question. Arriaga had been asked about a statement in a news advisory issued by GMAR to promote the news conference. The advisory said Proposition 1 has a “noble intention.”

The GMAR news conference was held to announce that realtors in the greater McAllen area were opposed to Proposition 1, a measure that would set up a taxing healthcare district for Hidalgo County that would be funded through property taxes.

Arriaga was the only realtor to speak at the news conference and his answers to questions from a reporter were somewhat different to his prepared remarks.

After the news conference ended, Arriaga told the Rio Grande Guardian that his prepared remarks were based on a guest column written by the Texas Public Policy Foundation. (Click here to read the guest column).

In a Q&A with reporters, Arriaga said more than once that he supports a healthcare district for Hidalgo County. “We do need a healthcare district. Just the way it is proposed is not proper,” Arriaga said.

Arriaga complained that there was a lack of consultation when the legislation giving voters the opportunity to create a healthcare district was being crafted. The legislation, which sets a cap of 25 cents per $100 property valuation, was authored by state Sen. Juan Hinojosa and state Rep. R.D. ‘Bobby’ Guerra. “This (consultation) was not done because of the urgency of trying to get this issue at the general election. It was important for them to fast track it,” Arriaga said.

If a healthcare district should not be based on property taxes, what should it be based on, Arriaga was asked. “We need to look at recommendations. I do not have the answers but I can assure you, look for different alternatives. Anybody can increase taxes just to solve an issue.”

Arriaga was asked if realtors support funding a healthcare district through sales taxes, rather than property taxes.

“It is not that the realtors want it. We need a fair way of funding this hospital district, which is greatly needed and maybe a sales tax would be proper,” Arriaga responded. “Keep in mind Hidalgo County is the location for a lot of Winter Texans, a lot of Mexican national shoppers and a lot of people that work here and live outside the area. Is it proper for the taxpayers, the homeowners, to pay for the entire amount of the hospital district while everybody else gets a free ride?”

Asked why McAllen realtors did not go to Austin during the last legislative session to give input on how healthcare district legislation should be crafted, Arriaga said: “When do you know when the laws are being written and proposed? No one had any idea. If they did I think people would have gone up there with information. All is done in the background. I can assure you, there is no ad in the paper saying, look, we are proposing legislation.”

Arriaga added: “No one ever knew this was being proposed.”

In fact, however, notice was provided by Sen. Hinojosa in an advertisement in the McAllen Monitor. The notice in the newspaper was headlined: Notice of Intent to File a Local Bill. Here is the text of the notice:

This is to give notice of intent to introduce in the 84th Texas Legislature, Regular Session, a bill relating to the Hidalgo County Hospital District (“the Hospital District”). If adopted, the bill would allow for legislative changes to be made to the enabling legislation of the Hospital District to provide for healthcare and other public services in Hidalgo County. Legislative changes will be made to reflect discussions among Hidalgo County local leaders and officials, including lowering the tax rate cap to 25 cents per $100 valuation.

Here is a copy of an affidavit signed by the Monitor stating that the public notice was published: