(The Center Square) – Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday announced a legislative proposal being considered to discourage the defunding of law enforcement by local leaders in Texas.
“Any city that defunds its police department will have its property tax revenue frozen at the current level,” according to the proposal, which has yet to be described in detail.
The governor was joined by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, state House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, Sen. Jane Nelson, and Reps. Giovanni Capriglione, Charlie Geren, Craig Goldman, and Stephanie Klick.
"Part of our job as state leaders is to ensure the safety and security of all Texans, and we will not allow this core function to be undermined by cities that seek to defund and dismantle law enforcement agencies that have a sworn duty to protect our communities," Abbott said. “Defunding the police puts Texans in danger and invites lawlessness into our cities, and cities that endanger their residents should not be able to turn around and raise more taxes from those same Texans.”
The announcement comes a few days after the Austin City Council voted to defund the Austin Police Department’s budget by $150 million, or roughly one-third.
State leaders decried the decision, including Nelson, the state Senate Finance Committee chair.
“I will vigorously oppose these short-sighted efforts to harm law enforcement and make our communities less safe – and will take action to ensure our next budget addresses this issue,” she said.
Abbott has “strongly urged” the legislature to take up this issue next session. In the meantime, he said, “the Texas Department of Public Safety will stand in the gap to protect our capital city.”
Unlike Austin, Fort Worth officials renewed a half-cent sales tax for the next decade to fund equipment, vehicles and neighborhood patrol officers for its police department.
Called the Crime Control and Prevention District tax, the money has been devoted to the city’s police department since 1995. The renewal is projected to provide the city with an additional $1 billion through 2030.
“Just the crime tax alone is enough to show you that the city of Fort Worth supports their police department, and I know our mayor and council do, and I know I do,” Geren said.