© 2020
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Texas

Gov. Greg Abbott Threatens Cities With Revenue Freeze If They Defund Police

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, center, speaks to Dr. Daniel Podolskyduring a news conference in Dallas, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, center, speaks to Dr. Daniel Podolskyduring a news conference in Dallas, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020.

Under a new proposal from Gov. Greg Abbott, any Texas city that defunds its police department will have its property tax revenues frozen.

Abbott presented the legislative proposal at Fort Worth’s police and fire training facility on Tuesday, alongside Fort Worth Police Chief Ed Kraus and several of the governor's fellow Republican lawmakers, including Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price.

Abbott said threatening to cap a city’s property taxes is a way to keep police budgets intact and protect public safety.

“If they do make the decision to defund law enforcement, they are constricting their ability to ever be able to meet the other needs they have,” Abbott said.

He did not specify the size of the cut that would trigger the property tax freeze.

Advocates for defunding want to redirect at least some money away from police and into areas like education and housing. The idea has gained traction nationwide since the killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died in Minneapolis after a white police officer kneeled on his neck.

Austin’s City Council has committed to cutting $150 million from the city's police budget. Democrats control that council as well as the mayor's office. 

Abbott condemned Austin’s funding cuts and advocated for better training instead of defunding.

“If we have police brutality, we don't need fewer police. We need less police brutality,” he said.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler said without any specific legislation, the governor’s announcement was purely a political move meant to scare people.

“I’m sure we’re going to see more and more of this as we get closer to the election in November,” he said Tuesday afternoon. “It’s a bad thing, and I hope the voters turn away from it.”

Most other cities in the state, including those in North Texas, have not seen those kinds of cuts. The budget proposals for Dallas and Fort Worth do not reduce police funding. In Fort Worth, voters approved a 10-year extension on a sales tax that generates tens of millions of dollars for the police department.

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said taking away police dollars won’t solve the issues people have with police.

“Chief Kraus and his team, as well as Council, are working on those community relations, but we will not defund our police to solve those issues,” she said.

Manny Ramirez is Fort Worth’s police union president and advocate for the sales tax extension. He was also present at the press conference, although he didn't speak. Ramirez is now the national face of the Protect and Serve PAC, a pool of election money to fight police defunding efforts in elections across the country.

KUT's Audrey McGlinchy contributed to this story.

Got a tip? Email Miranda Suarez at msuarez@kera.org . You can follow Miranda on Twitter @MirandaRSuarez .

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today . Thank you.

Copyright 2020 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.