Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the state legislature must pass laws that make it “fiscally impossible” for cities to reduce their police budgets.
Abbott made the comments Thursday in a roundtable on public safety that was held with several law enforcement officials from across the state.
“We must make it fiscally impossible for cities to defund police,” Abbott said. “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.”
One bill filed in the Texas House, HB 638, would prohibit municipalities from adopting a budget if “public safety service” funds are cut. Another bill, filed by San Antonio Rep. Steve Allison, would institute a referendum if public safety funds are cut by more than 5%.
Policing has become a priority for elected officials and activists alike after George Floyd died at the hands of a former Minneapolis police officer on May 25, 2020.
While activists have been advocating reducing police budgets and reallocating the funds to social services, Abbott has touted legislation that would dismantle reform efforts.
“Texas is a law and order state and we are going to ensure that we keep it that way,” Abbott said.
Previously, the governor proposed freezing property tax levels for any city that reduces its law enforcement budget for any reason. Abbott has also been said to consider having the state take over the Austin Police Department, controlling its operations and budget decisions at the city’s expense.
The heavy-handed approach is an unusual step for a governor who typically brands himself as a conservative, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg noted.
“Is it any surprise that the so-called ‘small government’ bureaucrats in Austin are playing Big Brother again,” Nirenberg previously told KSAT.
The mayor has previously said the governor’s plans will not affect how San Antonio reviews its budget.