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Gov. Abbott unveils new plan to discourage cities from cutting police budgets

Governor calls Dallas City Council proposal to cut police overtime budget a “scheme” to defund DPD.

DALLAS — Updated at 5 p.m. Thursday with new details, response from Texas Democrats. 

Gov. Greg Abbott says any city in Texas proposing cuts to a portion of its police budget is trying to defund its police department.

“I define defunding as exactly what the city of Austin has done, as exactly what the Dallas City Council voted to do last night,” Abbott said Thursday.

Dallas City Council did not vote to cut $7 million from the Dallas Police Department’s $24 million overtime budget as Abbott said it did. 

But a majority of council members indicated they support the measure.

The originally proposed 2020-21 DPD budget is $542 million.

Abbott called the cut to overtime a “scheme” to defund Dallas police.

The Austin City Council approved a plan in August to remove $150 million from the city police budget.

In response to the cities' moves, Abbott proposed legislation that would permanently take away a city’s annexation powers if they defund police.

“Any areas and any residents that have ever been annexed by that city in the past will have the power to vote to disannex from the city,” he said.

Abbott previously proposed legislation that would freeze a city’s property taxes if they shrink police budgets.

These two proposals would make it “fiscally impossible” to defund law enforcement, he said.  

Abbott also launched a "Texas Backs the Blue" campaign.

He asked all Texas to sign the pledge and post it on social media. The pledge opposes any measure to defund police.

Several North Texas lawmakers and candidates running for office immediately signed it and posted their support on social media.

State Rep. Chris Turner, (D) Arlington, called the pledge a political hail Mary and a distraction from the real issue impacting most residents: coronavirus.

Turner said Abbott is trying to turn attention away from the thousands of Texans who’ve lost lives and jobs during the pandemic by using “irresponsible” rhetoric about defunding police.

“Don’t buy it. This is a false, phony issue,” he said.

“I oppose defunding police. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have said very clearly they oppose defunding the police. I’m not aware of any member of the Texas legislature or a candidate for the Texas legislature who doesn’t agree with that,” Turner said.  

Turner pointed out that police budgets are local decisions.

“That’s why we have city councils,” he said.

“If Greg Abbott is concerned about Austin or some other city, he should run for Austin City Council and he can work on those issues.”

State Democrats issued their own pledge on Thursday, calling it "Texas First." 

Their pledge focuses on health care access, public health during the COVID-19 pandemic, small business support and unemployment relief, and education.

The pledge also references the comments made by Pres. Donald Trump calling those who serve "suckers" and "losers" and condemns those who spread racism, violence and fear.

Abbott has been vocally opposed to Austin’s decision to cut its police budget since the discussions began. 

At one point he tweeted that he would look into putting the control of the Austin Police Department under state authority.

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson is also opposed to cutting DPD’s overtime funding. In discussions regarding next year’s city budget, Johnson proposed instead of cutting police overtime, trimming $6 million of the budget by cutting city hall employee salaries. He called it "defunding bureaucracy”

Watch the full announcement:

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