Austin, TX – Texas Governor Greg Abbott has vowed to support legislation aimed at stopping Texas cities from defunding their police forces.
“Cities that defund the police make it physically impossible for citizens to live safely,” Abbott said during a news conference on Thursday, according to the Austin American-Statesman. “That’s why we must make it fiscally impossible for cities to defund the police.”
The governor is pushing the legislature to pass laws that would penalize cities determined to defund their law enforcement agencies.
“This session, Texas must pass laws that give cities a clear choice — either fulfill their duty to keep their residents safe, or lose access to all of their tax revenue,” Abbott declared, according to KSAT.
Proposed bills currently being considered by Texas lawmakers include House Bill 741, which would require municipalities wanting to defund their police, fire, or emergency medical services by more than five percent to hold a special election to let registered voters make the final call.
House Bill 638 would block cities from adopting a budget if they cut funding to their police, fire, or emergency medical services.
Abbott said he will also support a bill that would freeze tax revenue for any jurisdiction that tries to defund its police force, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
“When crime is on the rise, the last thing we should do is defund the police,” Abbott declared during a joint press conference with Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick in Fort Worth in August of 2020, according to KRIV.
“Any city that defunds police departments will have its property tax revenue frozen at the current level,” the governor said at the time. “They will never be able to increase property tax revenue again if they defund police.”
“Cities that endanger residents by reducing law enforcement should not then be able to turn around and go back and get more property tax dollars from those same residents,” he added.
Abbott’s stance on defunding the police differs strongly from that of the state capital city of Austin’s governing council, which opted to defund the local police department by a staggering 34 percent last year.
The governor has previously threatened to have the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) take over policing in some Austin areas due to skyrocketing homicide rates.
Abbott also expressed support for proposed policy changes that would increase the criteria a judge would be required to consider before setting bail, to include checking out the defendant’s criminal history, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
The changes would theoretically make it more difficult for those accused of violent offenses to be released from jail before trial.
“In Texas, we do not turn our backs on our law enforcement officers,” Abbott said on Thursday. “Texas is a law-and-order state, and we are going to ensure that we keep it that way.”
“Defunding the police is reckless,” he added, according to The Texas Tribune. “It endangers the lives of people and communities across the entire state.”
Austin City Council Member Greg Casar issued a statement ahead of Abbott’s press conference on Thursday, telling the governor not to interfere with Austin’s affairs, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
“In the wake of unjustifiable shootings and violence by police, our community has pushed the city to make much needed change,” Casar said. “Now, Gov. Abbott is supporting proposals to protect departments that do the wrong thing. He wants to punish Austin for establishing a civil rights office, family violence shelters, an independent forensic lab, and substance use programs in our latest budget.”
“It’s yet another chapter of his political theater, and it’s clear he doesn’t know the first thing about saving lives,” Casar declared. “If Gov. Abbott is so interested in the local budget process, he should file to run for Austin City Council. The election in his district is next year. I don’t expect he’d do very well.”