On the day Gov. Greg Abbott pushed his Back the Blue pledge and issued a new threat to cities that defund police, Texas Democrats countered with a request for the governor and his Republican colleagues to sign the Texans First Pledge.
With Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, police officers and their families at his side, Abbott signed the Back the Blue pledge and announced a new legislative proposal to discourage defunding of police operations at the local level. Under the governor’s proposal, cities that cut police funding would forever lose their annexation powers and areas annexed in the past by those cities would have the right to vote to disannex and regain their independence.
The new threat is in addition to Abbott’s consideration of a plan for a state takeover of the Austin Police Department and another legislative proposal to forever freeze the property tax rates of cities that defund police.
“Combined together, all of these proposals will make it basically financially impossible to defund law enforcement, and it should leave Austin with no choice but to restore the cuts that they have already made to law enforcement,” Abbott said.
As with his earlier announcements, Abbott did not define what would constitute defunding police.
So far, Austin is the only city in Texas to have cut police funding. Thursday’s event marked the second news conference Abbott has held on the issue.
Texas Democrats called the governor’s news conference a “political stunt” designed to distract attention away from his coronavirus response.
“Greg Abbott knows Texans are fed up with his mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, so he tries a tired old trick to change the subject and manufacture fear,” stated Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Manny Garcia. “He’s desperate to change the narrative, so reporters stop asking him about his failure to protect Texans from COVID-19. Abbott thinks Texans will be suckers for it. That is how little he thinks of all of us.”
Abbott’s Back the Blue Pledge and social media campaign are being coordinated out of his political office. He has challenged all political candidates and Texans to sign the pledge.
The competing Texas First Pledge from Democrats calls for an end to the state’s fight to kill the Affordable Care Act, adherence to science in making COVID-19 decisions, expanded unemployment assistance, quality education, support for the armed services and condemnation of racism.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler called Abbott’s Back the Blue pledge “political theatre intended to scare and distract us from important public safety conversations.”
“To be clear — Austin city leaders have neither defunded the police department nor support doing so,” Adler said in a statement posted on Twitter. “Austin is the safest big city in Texas and among the few safest in the country. We’ll continue to make an already safe city even safer and, importantly, safer for everyone.”