What would change if lawmakers didn’t get paid for their silly delays and political games that keep them from doing their jobs? If most state lawmakers had lost their pay during the pandemic, would the response have looked differently? Would the end have neared more quickly?
In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott has decided to take the question literally. On Friday, Abbott made good on an earlier promise to defund the entire Texas legislature after a Democrat walkout over an election reform bill.
Senate Bill 7 is a GOP-backed reform bill that would shore up the election process and help limit opportunities for election fraud. It is similar to other election reform bills sweeping across red states ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. Democrats are opposed to any type fo legislation that would require a more rigorous process for identifying legal voters and votes. The Texas bill was scheduled for a vote on May 31, but Democrat legislatures staged a walkout, breaking quorum and thus ending the legislative vote before it could take place.
Abbott responded by telling Texas Democrats that he had every intention of yanking their salaries if they had every intention of abandoning their jobs.
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.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) May 31, 2021
He told The Texas Tribune that he could not approve of any legislator running from a legislative battle.
“Texans don’t run from a legislative fight, and they don’t walk away from unfinished business. 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. I therefore object to and disapprove of these appropriations.”
On Friday the Governor made good on the promise. Abbott signed a budget bill that was pretty impressive in its own right, with no new taxes and a budget surplus of $1 billion dollars.
Today I signed a fiscally conservative Texas budget.
It includes no new taxes and a budget surplus of more than $1 billion. pic.twitter.com/pM9LxVwcMP
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) June 18, 2021
Notably, Abbott vetoed Article X of the budget, which is the language that funds the Texas legislature.
Democrat representative Chris Turner told The Dallas News that the Governor’s actions are “dangerous” and a threat to democracy.
“Texas has a governor, not a dictator or emperor,” said Grand Prairie Rep. Chris Turner, who chairs the House Democratic Caucus. “Abbott’s actions are an inexcusable and dangerous attack on the separation of powers, as his veto consolidates more power in his own office.”
The Democrat refusal to quorum marks only the 4th time such a tactic has been used in the history of the Texas legislature.
It remains to be seen if Abbott’s move will finally force a vote on election reform, but it seems he’s calling a bluff that will remain up to Democrats to play out.