Texas Governor Greg Abbott proposed legislation for the next session to freeze the property tax rates of any city that moves to “defund police.” The move would prevent municipalities like Austin from raising its property tax rate after taking action to defund their own departments.
Texas Republican leaders traveled to Fort Worth to meet with Mayor Betsy Price regarding funding for law enforcement operations. The meeting follows actions by the Austin City Council to strip nearly one-third of that city’s law enforcement budget as part of the “Defund the Police’ movement.
Abbott and the assembled legislators announced plans to introduce a bill in the next session of the Texas Legislature that will severely punish any city that moves to defund its police department by putting a freeze on the city’s current tax rate. Cities subject to this action by the state would not be allowed to raise their property tax rates to raise additional funds. The next session of the Texas Legislature begins in January 2021.
“Any city that defunds its police department will have its property tax revenues frozen ” Governor Abbott warned.
“Part of our collective responsibilities,” Abbott said regarding the leadership gathered at the Fort Worth meeting, “is to ensure the safety and security of all Texans. We will ensure those communities will be protected by law enforcement officers.”
“Defunding police is never the answer,” the governor stated. He said the state will not allow cities to defund police and descend into chaos and lawlessness.
The Texas governor cited recent reports showing the City of Austin being number one in percentage increase in the numbers of murders. Murders in Austin rose by 64 percent in a year-to-year comparison. He said the city also reported a 14 percent increase in aggravated robberies and a 16 percent increase in robberies.
“The last thing we should do is defund law enforcement,” Abbott stated. “And yet that is exactly what the City of Austin did.”
In response to a reporter’s question about future economic downturns in these cities, the governor explained, “This means absolutely, any city in the state of Texas that defunds law enforcement will have their property tax revenue frozen as of that time. And that does mean, in the future, if they do face tough economic times, it means they will have no ability to increase that property tax revenue.”
“If we have lawlessness in our cities caused by local decision-making policies that reduce law enforcement officers,” the impassioned governor added, “its going to cause chaos across the entire community and we are not going to allow it.”
Abbott picked Fort Worth following a vote by local residents to renew a half-cent sales tax dedicated to funding law enforcement equipment, vehicles, and neighborhood patrol officers for the city’s police department, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. Fort Worth voters initially approved the half-cent tax to fund the Crime Control and Prevention District in 1995. The renewal of the tax is expected to bring the city an additional $1 billion in revenue over the next 10 years, the local newspaper reported.
Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick (R) joined the governor and other state leaders in meeting with Mayor Price. The entourage included Texas Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) and Republican legislators from Tarrant County — State Senators Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) and Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) and State Representatives Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth), Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth), and Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake).
Lt. Governor Patrick slammed the leadership of Austin and pledged to make the proposed legislation a priority in the upcoming session.
Patrick said the city of Austin did not turn into the chaos of Portland and Seattle “only because of our Department of Public Safety troopers.” He said the city not only defunded the police department but stripped officers of key weapons needed to disburse crowds.
Patrick also cited the incident in Weslaco, Texas, on Monday where the presence of two police officers who quickly responded to a call in a Walmart regarding a man with a gun stopped that gunman from killing innocent residents. Patrick said the gunman was also confronted by a private citizen with a concealed carry permit.
“Had we not had police officers there yesterday… The governor and I and the speaker would be in Weslaco today in a press conference where innocent citizens were killed.”
“I don’t want to hear about defunding police,” the lieutenant governor continued. “We need every officer we can get on the street. We do not have enough now.”
Speaker Bonnen said the House of Representatives would “100 percent support the legislation.” The speaker compared comments by Austin Mayor Steve Adler in 2016 when he said $15 million in proposed tax reform would be “risky” in terms of its impact on law enforcement to the city’s current action of stripping the city’s police department of $150 million in 2020.
“Why now, in 2020, does Mayor Adler support the socialist agenda to cut our police department?” the speaker asked. “It is not okay. It is not acceptable. Law enforcement is not a tool of political agendas and I would ask the City of Austin to quit using them as one and put them back to work.”
The meeting is in response to a move by the Austin City Council to defund its own police department by stripping $150 million from the department’s budget, a staff member told Breitbart Texas.
At least some of the funds stripped from the Austin Police Department’s law enforcement budget will go to fund abortion services in the city, Breitbart Texas reported. The city council’s plan also includes the elimination of the current 150 vacant slots for new police officers.
Governor Abbott immediately slammed the city council decision following their vote and pledged to provide Texas Department of Public Safety troopers to fill the gap in order to keep the city safe.
“Some cities are more focused on political agendas than public safety,” Governor Abbott said in a written statement at that time. “Austin’s decision puts the brave men and women of the Austin Police Department and their families at greater risk, and paves the way for lawlessness.”
Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior news contributor for the Breitbart Texas-Border team. He is an original member of the Breitbart Texas team. Price is a regular panelist on Fox 26 Houston’s What’s Your Point? Sunday-morning talk show. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX and Face