State of Texas: Abbott targets Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Governor Greg Abbott vetoed 50 bills on Thursday. One veto in particular hit Austin and the issue of affordable housing. House Bill 3281 would have let the city direct money to help residents in certain neighborhoods stay in their homes. Governor Abbott said directing money in that way effectively increased the tax burden on other property owners, justifying his veto.

Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin) has a much different take. “Governor Abbott had no compelling policy reason to veto this bill other than a disdain for local control,” Rodriguez said in a news release. He went on to call the Governor’s attacks on local control “nothing more than posturing for a future campaign and protecting his flanks from the right.”

Rodriguez isn’t the only Austin lawmaker to take issue with the Governor’s vetoes.  Rep. Celia Israel (D-Austin) saw two of her bills struck down by Abbott’s veto pen. One was House Bill 1764 that she says would have allowed Capital Metro to save money with short-term financing for smaller projects. “So, instead of owning, now they’ll have to continue to rent something.”

In a statement released after the veto, Governor Abbott said he made the decision because the bill reduced budget transparency and competitive bidding requirements.

The vetoes come on the heels of Governor Abbott making a call for lawmakers to challenge local control measures – specifically mentioning Austin. This is likely part of a larger strategy. Andrea Zelinski, Austin Bureau reporter for the Houston Chronicle shared one explanation on KXAN’s Sunday morning program, State of Texas. “Over the last several years, you’ve had the state government really aiming at the federal government, aiming at Obama. Now that they feel they have a friend in the White House, where do they turn their attention to?” Zelinski explained one target becomes big cities, run by Democrats, like Austin. “That’s a natural place for them to shift their attention.”

The strategy may be working for Governor Abbott. A new University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll measuring how Texas voters view their leaders after the legislative session shows Abbott with an approval rate above 80% among Texas Republicans.

“There was a lot of chat going on in the capitol about whether Governor Abbott had been present enough, whether he had delivered,” said Jim Henson from the Texas Politics Project, one of the groups behind the polls. “I think as far as the Republican electorate is concerned, his ratings are still very strong. He’s the only one of the big three in positive territory among the general population.  Among Republicans he’s got an 80% approval rating, job approval rating, among Tea party identifiers even stronger.”

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