Cortez bends position on UTRGV Medical School funding; health care tax

Edinburg – Hidalgo County Judge candidate, Richard Cortez  appears to reneging on his committment to keep local tax payers dollars from supporting both UTRGV School of Medicine and the ever un-popular health care taxing district. Cortez spoke with Mark Hanna from The Rio Grande Guardian’s Conversation With The Candidates series.

Throughout the recorded conversation, Mr. Cortez reiterated is unwavering support for School of Medicine and the need to local citizens to invest (tax dollars) into the school if they ever want to see the school bear any economic fruit.

The shift in position comes shortly after Cortez, along with rival candidates Eloy Pulido, and Republican Jane Cross, outlined their platform during a candidate forum hosted by The Rio Grande Valley Builders Association.

When Cortez was asked on whether the Medical School should be funded through tax payers, Cortez answered with a definitive “no”.

Mr. Cortez even went further on solidifying his statement by posting a clip on his official campaign Facebook page, correcting the record on his tax position after being incorrectly misinterpreted by the McAllen Monitor as being for a taxing entity. 

Days later, during a sit down with the Rio Grande Guardian, Cortez communicated flexibility and openness to the possibility of using tax payers dollars.

“So, having the medical school for us is a huge advantage. We should nurture it and do everything we can to make it successful because I believe this is where a lot of our future jobs are going to come from.”

“At some point in time we have to make an investment. An investment, by definition that means I am going to put money in and I am going to get it back, plus more,”

Since the overwhelming defeat of Proposition 1, area politicians pivoted their support to the UTRGV School of Medicine, and the need for the school to be supported by local tax dollars.

State Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, through a commentary column in The Monitor, kicked off using the term “investment” as essentially a code word for tax money.

A month later during a Healthcare Symposium hosted by the Texas Tribune,  UTRGV School of Medicine Dean, John Krouse, went further on the “investment” angle by stating that taxpayers should step up and support a health care taxing entity.

“We have the largest uncompensated burden in the state, and the only way that we are ever going to get that under control is to have our local communities, through a health district tax, begin to step up to the plate and assume their responsibility.”

“And it is something that is the public’s responsibility”

““It’s an ethical and moral responsibility to do that.” – John Krouse

Cortez, during the discussion, shared a similar view regarding local government and tax payers role in health care.

“The county does have a legal duty to pay for indigent care”

State of Texas mandates that counties allocate 8 percent of their general fund to provide health care for area poor.  However, sudden surges in population, and increase of obesity related afflictions, particularly diabetes, have put a strain on county health care allocations.  Thus creating a need for some form of health care subsidization.

Despite Cortez’s hard-line opposition to a taxing district on his social media accounts, Cortez vagueness with one of this statements appears to leave the door open for possible support of a taxing entity.

Still speaking on the subject of a health care district, Cortez said this:

“I do not want politics or emotion to lead me in a direction. For me to say I have a pre-determined position when I come in (as county judge) would be incorrect. Because until I get there and find out (what is going on), I would be guessing.”

With such a statement, it would appear that Richard Cortez would have to be elected just to find out what position he really is taking.

Link to Richard Cortez Interview with Rio Grande Guardian

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