Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced a plan that would permanently block cities from raising property taxes if local governments pass measures that defund local law enforcement agencies.
Abbott, appearing with other Republican state leaders on Tuesday, specifically pointed to the city of Austin, which last week voted to divert millions from its police department budget.
“Defunding the police puts residents in danger and it invites lawlessness into our communities,” Abbott said. “Any city that defunds police departments will have its property tax revenue frozen at the current levels. They will never be able to increase property tax revenue again if they defund police.”
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick agreed and also took aim at Austin for its cuts to the police department.
“Not only has Austin defunded their police, but they’ve taken away vital weapons they could use to disperse crowd,” he said. “What they have done in Austin should never happen in any city in the state and we’re going to pass legislation to be sure it never happens again.”
The proposal comes as cities across the country are moving forward with plans to overhaul police departments and shifting funds and duties to other government agencies. These are measures that are being called for at national protests demanding an end to systemic racism and police brutality.
The governor’s proposal still needs to be approved by Texas state lawmakers, which likely will consider the measure during the upcoming legislative session, slated to begin in January, Austin member station KUT reports.
Speaking after the press conference, Austin City Council member Greg Casar said he was unfazed by the governor’s plan.
“We’re going to keep on doing what we are doing,” Casar told KUT. “We’re going to keep on supporting the movement for Black lives and keep on doing what’s right for civil rights even if the governor just wants to rely on the traditional Austin-bashing to try and distract people.”
The Austin City Council approved a budget that would slash $150 million in proposed cuts to the Austin Police Department last week, according to The Austin American-Statesman, but only about $20 million would be immediately cut from the department. The rest would move into transitional funds that would gradually move away from the police department.
The Texas showdown over police funding is similar to ones playing out in cities, including Minneapolis, New York and Seattle.
Carmen Best, Seattle’s first Black police chief, abruptly resigned last week, hours after the city council voted to strip resources, including 100 jobs at the police department.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio last month defended New York City Council’s move to shift roughly $1 billion dollars from the city’s police department, which is the largest in the nation.
During a Minneapolis City Council budget mark up last month, lawmakers approved several amendments aimed at slashing police funding and staffing.
The move included diverting $1.1 million from the Minneapolis police department to the health department to go towards funding “civilian violence interrupters who will mediate violent conflicts and help prevent further trouble,” Minnesota Public Radio reports.