Jul 25, 2022 - News

Public safety funding in Texas remains steady despite defunding calls

Public safety spending by Texas'&nbsp;<span style="background: #007831; padding: 5px; color: white;">state</span> and <span style="background: #00c46b; padding: 5px; color: white;">local</span> governments
Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Skye Witley/Axios

State and local governments in Texas spent almost $21 billion on public safety in 2020, per new U.S. Census Bureau data.

  • That includes spending by all state agencies, as well as cities of at least 200,000 people and counties of at least 500,000 residents.

Why it matters: There were widespread calls to defund police after the murder of George Floyd in 2020, but the state's public safety budget has remained largely unchanged and cities have funneled even more money into law enforcement departments.

By the numbers: The biggest total was for local police and fire spending, which accounted for $12.1 billion.

  • Texas spent nearly $1.3 billion on state policing in 2020.
  • The state's department of public safety has a budget of $2.3 billion this year, about a billion of which comes from federal funds.

Zoom in: A shade over a third of Austin's general fund budget is spent on police.

  • Under the proposed budget for the coming fiscal year, APD's $373 million operating budget will pay for roughly 1,800 officers, 500 civilian staff, two dozen K-9s and 16 horses.
  • Overall, the amount earmarked for Austin police has been steadily climbing, apart from the volatile period of 2020-2021.

The other side: Groups like the ACLU and the Austin Justice Coalition have argued that reallocating funds from police departments to other social services would make most communities safer.

The bottom line: Republican state leaders have tied themselves tightly to the "Blue Lives Matter" movement — and, fearing their electoral chances, Democrats have largely backed away from any defunding rhetoric.

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