AUSTIN (KXAN) — Voters across the state of Texas are now weighing in on who they think should be the next governor following the only debate in the state this year that both candidates agreed to take part in.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) and former Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D) squared off Friday night during Nexstar’s governor’s debate which covered topics such as abortion, gun control and the border. Before you cast your ballot, here are some comments made that needed more context, or were inaccurate.
Is El Paso busing more migrants than Texas?
In a particularly testy moment between the governor and O’Rourke, the two battled over the busing of migrants to Democrat-led cities. The heated back and forth concluded after O’Rourke suggested Abbott’s rhetoric was such that could encourage violence.
Governor Abbott began sending busloads of migrants to East Coast sanctuary cities in April, saying it would ease the burden of immigration on Texas cities. Texas has spent more than $14 million doing so, according to records obtained by Nexstar. That program was brought up Friday during a discussion about the border.
“The fact of the matter is, the El Paso mayor, a Democrat, the El Paso city council, Democrats, they are now busing more people than the state of Texas is busing,” Abbott said Friday night. “And he’s [O’Rourke’s] not calling them out.”
A report published last week by El Paso Matters found more than 38,000 people have been released by the El Paso Border Patrol Sector into the region since July 1. The report — which cited Laura Cruz-Acosta, an El Paso city spokesperson — said roughly 6,300 of those people had been bused to other parts of the country by the City of El Paso in the same time period.
El Paso Matters found despite early remarks from leaders that the bill for that transport would be covered by the federal government, local taxpayers could be out $4.2 million.
Meanwhile, KXAN has previously reported that as of Aug. 18, the state had paid more than $14 million to Wynne Transportation to bus more than 8,000 migrants from the state of Texas to other areas.
“It’s a completely different program, it is apples to oranges,” O’Rourke rebutted. “And I’ll tell ya, this hateful rhetoric, this treating human beings as political pawns, talking about invasions and Texans defending themselves, that’s how people get killed at the Walmart in El Paso.”
Does O’Rourke want to defund the police?
It’s a claim that’s become a central part of the governor’s campaign and is the topic of one of Abbott’s most prominent television advertisements: Does Beto O’Rourke want to defund police?
“Of course, I don’t,” O’Rourke said when asked by moderators. “And no one does. But let’s look at my record.”
The former El Paso city council member and congressman pointed to El Paso police getting a 12% salary bump during his time on the council. He also referenced legislation that pushed millions of additional dollars to police across the state of Texas.
But Abbott, as he has done throughout his campaign, turned to remarks O’Rourke made on a podcast shortly after the murder of George Floyd, at the height of Black Lives Matter protests in Minneapolis:
“I really love that Black Lives Matters and other protesters have put this front and center to defund these line items that have overmilitarized our police and instead invest that money in the human capital your community, make sure that you have the services, the help, the support, the health care necessary to be well and not require police intervention,” O’Rourke said in 2020. “And then also in some necessary cases, completely dismantling those police forces and rebuilding them.”
“I want to fund law enforcement, fund training,” O’Rourke said Friday night.
Can the governor raise property taxes?
“There is only one person on this stage tonight who has ever raised property taxes, and that is Beto,” Abbott said during Friday’s debate. Taxes, of course, are a central talking point for conservative Texans.
Is the governor’s statement true? Technically yes. But that’s also because O’Rourke has served in local government, the only level of government in the state of Texas that has direct control over property tax rates.
That said, state policy and the amount of funding provided at the state level to local municipalities can impact how local lawmakers see property tax rates and the money they provide.
O’Rourke pointed to that Friday saying the total property tax levy in Texas has gone up $20 billion with Abbott in the governor’s office.
“You want more property taxes, elect Gov. Abbott,” he said.
Are teachers making more money under Abbott?
Abbott claimed during the debate that he’s been increasing pay for teachers across the State of Texas. O’Rourke didn’t agree and neither did the Texas State Teachers Association, which tweeted the following Friday night:
“Greg Abbott is lying about his record on teacher pay. He only focused on public school finance after his slim margin victory in 2018. Teachers continue to fall behind the rest of the nation in teacher pay and have less buying power than they had in 2019.”
A KXAN Investigation found a record number of teachers have resigned in Texas over the last year.
“If we don’t make changes such that we get the salary schedule bumped up, moved up and started towards the place it ought to be just like before, we will lose more and more teachers, and the real victims in this is the students,” Rep. Dutton, D-Houston, told KXAN as a part of that KXAN report.
Does Texas lead the nation in rape charges?
In a now widely publicized remark made by Abbott, the governor said Texas’ decision not to allow abortion exceptions for rape or incest would be negated because Texas would eliminate rapes.
That was brought up by O’Rourke Friday who said our state leads the nation in rape offenses. While technically true, that data doesn’t necessarily paint an accurate picture.
FBI data does show Texas has more reported rapes than any other state at more than 13,500. That data is from 2020, the most recent the FBI has available. However, the data doesn’t factor in population, and Texas is a big state.
If you adjust for population, it’s actually Alaska that has the most reported rapes per capita. Texas would fall to 15th in the nation, sitting at 46 reported rapes per 100,000 people.