Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has unveiled a plan which would block cities in his state from hiking property taxes if local governments, such as Austin’s, take measures to defund law enforcement agencies.
The Austin City Council voted unanimously Thursday to slash the budget for the city’s police department by $150 million, The Texas Tribune reported.
But the action taken to undercut police in the Texas capital did not impress Abbott, and now the Republican plans to hit Austin — and other cities that follow — where it hurts.
The Austin American-Statesman reported that Abbott proposed using state powers to freeze property tax revenue hikes.
“Any city that defunds police departments will have its property tax revenue frozen at the current level,” Abbott said Tuesday at a news conference in Fort Worth.
“They will never be able to increase property tax revenue again if they defund police,” he added.
Abbott was joined at the conference by two fellow Republicans: Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen.
Any action to freeze property tax hikes would have to be passed by the state’s Republican-led legislature.
According to the Statesman, Bonnen and Patrick both said they believe state lawmakers will support punishing cities which target police department budgets amid a nationwide campaign against perceived brutality and racial bias in law enforcement.
Patrick is particularly vocal about opposing those who want to defund police departments.
“Only a Democrat would defund the police and raise taxes during a pandemic and an economic slow down,” he tweeted last week.
— Dan Patrick (@DanPatrick) August 14, 2020
Patrick also highlighted Monday’s incident in Cedar Park, Texas, where three police officers were shot during a hostage situation, as a reason why “the ‘Defund Police’ crowd is so wrong.”
Following on the incident in Cedar Park yesterday, this story highlights why the “Defund Police” crowd is so wrong. We are thankful for the brave police officers who put their lives on the line for us everyday. https://t.co/CXG166Q4nk#BackTheBlue
— Dan Patrick (@DanPatrick) August 17, 2020
Abbott vowed Tuesday that the Texas Department of Public Safety “will stand in the gap to protect our capital city” until the issue of freezing property tax revenues can be taken up by lawmakers next year.
Abbott laid out the reasoning behind his property tax proposal on Twitter:
Under my plan any city that defunds police will have their property tax revenue capped at current levels.
Cities can’t cut law enforcement & then turn around and increase taxes on the residents they just endangered.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) August 18, 2020
Defunding the police puts Texans in danger and invites lawlessness into our communities.
Cities that endanger their residents should not be able to turn around and raise more taxes from those same Texans. pic.twitter.com/1ZK5Q50iUI
— Gov. Greg Abbott (@GovAbbott) August 18, 2020
Austin is immediately cutting $21.5 million from its police department’s budget.
In order to do so, the city is canceling three upcoming cadet classes and targeting overtime for officers.
More of the department’s budget will be moved to a fund for “alternative forms of public safety,” the Statesman reported.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler, a Democrat, accused Texas Republicans of attempting to gain a “political advantage” by going after the city.
“I think that that we’ve identified things that we really want to have a really good conversation about, and some of those things make absolute sense to me,” Adler told the Statesman.
Adler also suggested the council’s new budget will merely help the city’s police department rethink some forms of traditional policing.
The Wall Street Journal reported Aug. 2 that Austin’s homicides are up 64 percent over last year.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.