After the Austin City Council voted last month to defund their police department by one-third, removing $150 million from 2021’s police budget, Gov. Greg Abbott has seized the opportunity to “back the blue” and threaten retribution during the upcoming session for cities that consider following the capital city’s lead.

During a press conference a few weeks ago in Fort Worth, Abbott announced a legislative proposal that would freeze property tax revenue for cities that defund the police. Abbott’s threat was intended to be retributory, even though citizens across the state have demanded meaningful relief from skyrocketing property taxes for years. 

Abbott’s latest proposal focuses on annexation.

Flanked by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, outgoing House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, and leaders of police organizations, Abbott announced the new strategy.

“Cities that defund their police departments will forever lose their annexation powers. And any areas and any residents that have ever been annexed by that city in the past will have the power to vote to disannex them from the city,” said Abbott.  

“Combined together, all of these proposals will make it financially impossible to defund law enforcement, and it should leave Austin with no choice but to restore the cuts that they’ve already made to law enforcement,” he added.

Much like Abbott’s previous property tax freeze threat, his newest proposal raises some questions.

Legislation passed by the state legislature over the last few years has already successfully addressed the problem of forced annexation. Now, cities must hold an election of those they seek to bring into the city limits.

Under Abbott’s proposal, even if citizens unanimously wished to be incorporated by a city in the future, they would be prohibited from doing so if a city council decided many years ago to make cuts to the police budget.

To that point, it remains unclear if any reduction to police budgeting—perhaps due to efficiencies or other considerations—would constitute “defunding.”

Details aside, the issue remains toxic for Democrats heading into the November election.

According to a July poll issued by Pew Research Center, 42 percent of Americans say spending on policing in their area should stay about the same, while 31 percent say it should be increased. Only 25 percent say it should be decreased. Among Republicans, the unity is even greater, with only 8 percent in favor of cutting police budgets.

Recently, even Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden has walked back his previous statements expressing support for defunding the police, in an attempt to gain back voters alienated by the Democrat Party’s far-left lunge.

At a time when a growing number of Republicans have expressed frustration over Abbott’s series of unilateral executive orders and statewide mandates in response to the Chinese coronavirus, the new focus on police funding could be viewed as a welcomed distraction for the governor.

Brandon Waltens

Brandon serves as the Senior Editor for Texas Scorecard. After managing successful campaigns for top conservative legislators and serving as a Chief of Staff in the Texas Capitol, Brandon moved outside the dome in order to shine a spotlight on conservative victories and establishment corruption in Austin. @bwaltens