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.
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.”
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:
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.
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