Texas officials introduced legislation Tuesday to disincentivize defunding the police.
Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen announced the proposal with other local officials at the Bob Bolen Safety Complex in Ft. Worth.
“When crime is on the rise, the last thing we should do is defund the police,” the Republican governor said. The governor added that any city in the state that defunds police departments will have property tax rates frozen at their current level, according to Fox 26 Houston.
Cities that vote to defund police would not be able to increase property taxes under the legislation.
“Cities that endanger residents by reducing law enforcement should not then be able to turn around and go back and get more property tax dollars,” Abbott said.
Abbott said that such cities were “more focused on political agendas than public safety.”L
Last week the city of Austin announced it would be the latest city to divert funding from its police department. The City Council unanimously approved a proposal to cut the police budget by $150 million, about 34 percent of its current total, and reinvest in other resources.
Of that $150 million, $21 million would be invested in emergency medical services, domestic violence shelters and programs for the homeless.
About another $80 million will go into a “Decouple Fund” that will transfer many civilian services, like forensic sciences and victim services, outside of the police department.
The rest of the money, about $49 million, will go into a “Reimagine Safety Fund,” the goal of which “is to divert dollars from the fund toward alternative forms of public safety and community support, through the yearlong reimagining process.”
Texas attorney general Ken Paxton said that Austin bowed to “cancel culture” in its decision to defund law enforcement.
“The unwarranted attack by the Austin mayor and City Council on their police department’s budget is no more than a political haymaker driven by the pressures of ‘cancel culture,’” Paxton said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the targets of this ‘canceling’ are the brave men and women who selflessly put their lives on the line to keep our families safe.”
The city has struggled to control crime, violence and homelessness, and the mayor and council disregarded the safety of the capital, the people who live there and the guests who visit, Paxton said.
Activists who have been calling for the police to be defunded weren’t happy with the final agreement either. Communities of Color United, an Austin activist group, was calling for a 50% divestment, which amounts to $220 million. They also said a majority of the funds are an accounting shift that will allow the police to still access them in the near-term.