Political, hypocritical, nonsensical, government overreach and unconstitutional. Those are the words being used to describe Gov. Greg Abbott’s proposal to seek legislative approval of a proposal that would forever freeze the property taxes of any Texas city that cuts police funding.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler, the main target of Abbott’s punishment plan, responded with a video message and a thread of 13 tweets in which he explained Austin’s recent cuts to its police budget.
“The governor’s press conference today was not about facts,” Adler wrote. “It presented no plans, it presented no data. It was about trying to make us scared, frightening us, and furthering lies.”
State Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) believes Abbott’s motivation was a desire to make Democrats look weak on law enforcement in the middle of their national convention.
“What are the people who don’t like Democrats going to respond to,” Coleman asked in an interview with Reform Austin. “This idea that somebody is going to take their local police officer away in the middle of the Democratic convention. They make it seem like people like me and or (Democratic presidential nominee Joe) Biden want to defund the police. I don’t in my city. I think it is inappropriate because we don’t have enough patrol officers.”
Coleman is a member of the Texas Black Legislative Caucus, which has proposed the George Floyd Act, a comprehensive package of police reforms for the Texas Legislature to consider in 2021. He agrees there is a need for more money for social services that could impact crime but opposes taking money from police budgets to do it.
Austin City Council last week voted to cut the Austin Police Department budget and shift the savings to programs to house the homeless, expand EMS, increase shelter for domestic violence victims, invest in violence prevention programs and expand mental health programs for first responders.
Austin City Council Member Gregorio Casar said it was a move aimed at lessening the burden on police.
“We must decrease our over-reliance on police to handle all of our complex public safety challenges — and instead reinvest in family violence shelters, mental health first responders, and more. That’s what our city council did — and it’s exactly the work we’re going to continue,” he wrote on Twitter.
Aside from the politics behind Abbott’s proposal, it may not be legal.
“The answer to Republican leadership’s completely over the top, unconstitutional ‘proposal’ is simple: No. It is a nonstarter,” tweeted State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin). “This is about insipid State overreach into Texans’ right to local government.”
Abbott announced his threat to cities at a Fort Worth news conference on Tuesday. He was joined by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, outgoing Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, other GOP legislative members and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, who is the only GOP mayor of a major metropolitan city in Texas. The group did not provide any specifics of how their plan would work.
“Today Governor Abbott wields his heavy hand of government once again by proposing his so-called anti de-funding of police policy that would limit local local,” tweeted State Rep. Nicole Collier (D-Dallas). “How much leeway will a city have left when crafting their own budget?”