Texas Gov. Abbott vows to sign bill punishing cities that defund local police departments

The progressive left’s “defund the police” movement swept the nation in 2020 and resulted in a number of municipalities, including Austin, Texas, reducing a police force’s budget and reallocating appropriated funding away from a force and toward other social services.

Texas Republicans are not on board with that idea at all, and Gov. Greg Abbott (R) just announced that he intends to sign a bill that will punish any municipalities in the state that defund the police, the Washington Examiner reported.

“Texas won’t tolerate this”

Abbott made the announcement in a tweet that was in response to a complaint from Kenneth Casady, president of the Austin Police Association, regarding a significantly delayed dispatch response time for the Austin Police Department following a shooting incident in the city Sunday morning.

In a tweet, Casady noted that a call about the shooting first came in at 5:35 a.m., but no units were available to be dispatched until 12 minutes later. It then took an additional four minutes for that unit to finally arrive at the scene — some 16 minutes later after the shooting had occurred, potentially further endangering the life of the victim who had been critically injured with a gunshot to the head.

Linking to Casady’s tweet, Abbott wrote, “This is what defunding the police looks like. Austin is incapable of timely responding to a victim shot in the head. Texas won’t tolerate this. We’re about to pass a law – that I will sign – that will prevent cities from defunding police. Sanity & safety will return.”

Consequences for defunding police

The bill that Abbott pledged to sign is HB 1900 and a Republican-led Texas Senate committee is currently considering the measure that was recently passed by the Republican-controlled Texas House, according to local Dallas-Fort Worth NBC affiliate KXAS-TV.

The bill would only target Texas cities with populations greater than 250,000 people that defunded their local police departments, without making similar reductions to other budgetary areas, by allowing the state to withhold a commensurate amount of the locality’s tax revenues and diverting those funds to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

HB 1900 would also prohibit a designated “defunding local government” from raising other taxes or municipally-owned utility rates to compensate for the lost tax revenue. Further, it prohibits such municipalities from annexing or expanding jurisdiction over other areas, and created an election and petition process for areas within the municipalities to “disannex” themselves from the defunding municipality’s jurisdiction.

Austin partially defunded police department

The Austin American-Statesman reported in March that Austin’s interim Police Chief Joe Chacon had testified in opposition to the bill in the Texas House, claiming that Austin hadn’t really defunded the police department, despite appearances, but simply moved funds for certain specific purposes from one budget to another.

In 2020, the Austin City Council voted to reallocate upwards of $150 million from the department’s budget, with the vast majority simply being shifted to other city-provided services, as the interim chief claimed, though the city had indeed cut roughly $21.5 million from the department’s budget that would have been used for recruiting and training new officer classes at the police academy.

Defunding police departments might seem like a good idea to academics and idealistic progressives, but there are dire consequences for the people who are served by the defunded departments, and it is a great thing that Texas is preparing to step in and address the issue before it spreads beyond just liberal Austin.

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