As you well know, there is a scary trend making its way across the nation. In cities such as New York City, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Atlanta, and Chicago, calls are being made to defund the police. And unfortunately, city councils are listening and obeying these calls.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott wants to make sure this trend doesn’t make its way into his state. Therefore, he and his second in command have come up with a plan. And I have to admit; it’s a good one and one that just might catch on.
He is proposing that any city within Texas who defunds the police will no longer be allowed to collect property taxes, which is a vital and one of the only sources of income for most Texas municipalities.
According to the Houston Chronicle, “‘ Any city that defunds police departments will have its property tax revenue frozen at the current level,’ Abbott said, flanked by the other two Republican members of the “Big Three” in Texas state government. ‘They will never be able to increase property tax revenue again if they defund police.’”
The proposal comes as one of Texas’ largest cities and the home of its state capital, Austin, has recently voted to defund the Austin Police Department. Last week Austin’s city council unanimously decided that the police budget for 2021 would be cut by $150 million. Another $20 million would be cut from the department’s budget for the remaining 2020 year.
To give you just an idea of how much this is, the entire 2020 police department budget is only $375 million. By taking $150 million of that, they are essentially amputating over half of the funding necessary to serve and protect a city of just under one million people.
Like most cities that have proposed this kind of grand-scale cutting of police resources, the “savings” will be “reinvested” in other areas, such as Austin’s newly created Decouple and Reimagine Safety funds account. According to Austin City Council member Greg Casar, this will allow the city to “decrease our over-reliance on police to handle all of our complex public safety challenges and instead reinvest in domestic violence shelters, mental health first responders, and more.”
Now, I am not saying that more funding for social services isn’t needed. As I am sure the city council is aware, Austin has a growing homelessness problem, which in turn also increases drug use, violence, and other crimes throughout the city. However, I’m just not sure that cutting your police department in half is the best way to do that.
Let’s say a call comes in about domestic violence taking place. And a social worker is sent out to handle it. I’m positive that a well-trained social worker can help to calm the situation down. But I am also sure that, at some point, the one causing the violence is going to have to be removed from the situation.
Is the social worker going to do that? Put them in cuffs and take them to jail?
Gov. Abbott and his staff understand that as necessary as social services to the health and welfare of our communities, they cannot replace the police.
It may be too late to change Austin’s mind. But for the other cities within his jurisdiction, Abbott is sending a clear message.
It is important to note that Abbott can’t just simply sign this into law on the spot. It will first have to through the proper channels, and that means through both state legislative houses. And as of this year, neither of those are in session.
But they will be after the first of the year in 2021. And while this is an election year and one that could turn the state a little more blue with all the pushing those like Beto O’Rourke are doing, it’s unlikely that the Republicans won’t remain in control of both houses.
Currently, the 31-seated state Senate has a 19-12 GOP lead. The House, which has 150 seats, now sits at 83 Republicans to 67 Democrats. Democratic control in either house will be next to impossible to achieve, and everyone knows it.
And this means Abbott will get his property tax freeze if he really wants it. No wonder cities like Houston and San Antonio have recently voted to increase not decrease their police budgets.