Texas Gov. Greg Abbott followed through on a promise to defund the Texas Legislature after Democratic lawmakers staged a walkout to protest legislation meant to strengthen election integrity. The bill was championed by Republicans, including Abbott.
What is the background?
During the final moments of a legislative session in late May, Texas House Democrats staged a walkout to protest SB7, a sweeping election reform bill. The move, which broke decorum, was meant to block the bill’s passage.
The Texas Tribune explained:
Senate Bill 7, a Republican priority bill, is an expansive piece of legislation that would alter nearly the entire voting process. It would create new limitations to early voting hours, ratchet up voting-by-mail restrictions and curb local voting options like drive-thru voting. Democrats had argued the bill would make it harder for people of color to vote in Texas. Republicans called the bill an “election integrity” measure — necessary to safeguard Texas elections from fraudulent votes, even though there is virtually no evidence of widespread fraud.
In response, Abbott threatened to veto funding for the Texas Legislature, which prompted questions about the separation of powers.
“I will veto Article 10 of the budget passed by the legislature. Article 10 funds the legislative branch. No pay for those who abandon their responsibilities. Stay tuned,” Abbott said.
What did Abbott do?
Abbott made good on his promise, vetoing a portion of the state budget that funds the Texas Legislature.
“Texans don’t run from a legislative fight, and they don’t walk away from unfinished business,” Abbott said. “Funding should not be provided for those who quit their job early, leaving their state with unfinished business and exposing taxpayers to higher costs for an additional legislative session.”
The dramatic action effectively chokes off pay for lawmakers, their staffers and a host of other legislative functions starting Sept. 1, when the state’s next two-year budget begins.
Not only could the veto wipe out lawmakers’ $7,200 annual salaries and pay for their personal staff members, but it could also force a group of other experts and support staff on the legislative branch’s payroll to get pink slips.
As expected, Democrats were outraged over Abbott’s decision.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Chris Turner accused Abbott of an “abuse of power,” and said Democrats are “exploring every option, including immediate legal options, to fight back,” the Texas Tribune reported.
“Texas has a governor, not a dictator,” Turner said. “The tyrannical veto of the legislative branch is the latest indication that [Abbott] is simply out of control.”