AUSTIN — Amid scenes of increased violent crime on the streets, lawlessness among the homeless, and a police department financially gutted by one-third, Gov. Greg Abbott is plotting for the state government to take control of the public safety in Texas’ capital city.
On Monday, Abbott announced the potential takeover law on Twitter.
“Just in time for Christmas,” wrote Abbott. “The Legislative Council has sent draft language for a proposed law that would transfer control of that Austin Police Department to the Texas Department of Public Safety. One way or another we will pass a law to keep Austin safe.”
Abbott’s action comes after Austin’s leftist local officials made a variety of harmful public safety decisions.
The controversy began in the summer of 2019, when the all-Democrat Austin City Council legalized homeless camping in nearly all public spaces throughout the city, which sparked a wildfire of backlash and public safety risk. A slew of law enforcement and elected officials warned against the move, and more than 115,000 citizens signed a petition calling for the council to reverse their decision.
In 2020, after violent crime increased by double digits and homicides surged by 64 percent, the council voted to defund the Austin Police Department by $150 million—one-third of their budget—and spend the money on other government programs.
“U.S. Attorney says ‘defunding [APD]’ is contributing to the dramatic increase in violent crimes in Austin. The state will fix this,” tweeted Abbott last week. “Texas will pass a law this session supporting law enforcement and defunding cities that defund police.”
Abbott’s latest takeover law proposal adds to another idea he posed in August: if any local officials chose to defund their police, they could no longer raise taxes.
“Cities can’t cut law enforcement & then turn around and increase taxes on the residents they just endangered,” Abbott tweeted in the summer.
Both of Abbott’s proposals have stirred mixed reactions and confusion among the public.
“But won’t that make more taxpayers want to defund the police — to keep their taxes low?!” one citizen tweeted.
“You need to freeze and cut property taxes everywhere,” another replied.
“Does this mean the rest of Texas is paying for the police that Austin defunded? That doesn’t sound fair,” one citizen replied to Abbott’s latest takeover proposal.
“Let the liberals in Austin live their dream of no police. But don’t use my tax dollars to pay for their law enforcement,” another wrote. “Move the Capital somewhere else.”
“This is far more complicated than APD just taking orders from DPS,” said JoAnn Fleming, executive director of Grassroots America – We the People. Fleming explained that according to a draft version of the proposal law, APD would transfer a slew of resources—including taxpayer-funded equipment, personnel, property, facilities, and even liabilities such as retirement benefits—over to the state.
“There are many serious questions that should be answered because this sets a precedent. Will other major Texas cities be next? Shouldn’t local citizens have a say about this?” Fleming told Texas Scorecard.
“I would urge lawmakers to be very careful about taking this step,” she concluded. “Watch out for unintended consequences!”
The state Legislature will convene on January 12.