AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday signed a pledge that opposes cuts to police budgets in Texas cities and proposed new legislation to discourage cities from defunding those departments.
“Some want to defund our police — but we can’t allow it,” Abbott said on Wednesday in a tweet, where he called for Texans and candidates for public office to sign a pledge called “Texas Backs the Blue.”
During a news conference Thursday, Abbott, along with House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and Attorney General Ken Paxton, urged cities to reconsider cutting police budgets.
The initiative by the governor comes after the Austin City Council voted to cut the police department’s budget by $150 million last month. Abbott also criticized Dallas City Council after it voted on an amendment Wednesday evening to reduce overtime at the police department by $7 million.
“It is particularly offensive that some cities are disrespecting and even defunding our law enforcement agencies and communities across the state,” Abbott said Thursday. “Cities must prioritize public safety. The last thing they should do is to defund law enforcement.”
More than $2.6 million of the Dallas Police Department’s overtime budget would go to public safety. It would allow the department to hire 50 civilian employees one year early and increase funding for improving lighting in high crime areas.
Abbott also announced additional legislative proposals to discourage cuts to police department budgets. He said he proposed last month that cities would be defunded if they defunded police.
In Thursday’s proposal, the governor said any city that defunds police would “forever lose” its annexation powers and that any residents who have been annexed already would be able to vote to “dis-annex” themselves from that city.
“Combine together all of these proposals will make it basically 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,” Abbott said.
After speaking, Abbott, Bonnen and Paxton and others representing law enforcement signed the “Texas Backs the Blue” pledge on a poster.
Late Thursday afternoon, Dallas council member Lee Kleinman dismissed the governor’s criticism, saying it’s not about how many first responders a city has.
“It’s about how safe your community is and that is what’s most important. Just throwing money at a police department doesn’t reduce crime. Dealing with some of the systemic problems in your city that create crime are ways to deal with crime,” Kleinman said.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson also criticized the city council’s decision and had proposed cutting salaries at city hall instead. However, his plan won little support.