Whether Texas scales back on nearly $1 billion in border security spending or pursues a North Carolina-style transgender bathroom law will depend on what Donald Trump does in the White House, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday.
Despite expecting Trump to build new physical barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, Abbott said he doesn't want a wall cutting through some places.
"There are serpentine regions of the Rio Grande where it would be extremely challenging to build a wall. There are parts like the Big Bend region — we don't want see a wall in the beautiful Big Bend National Park," Abbott said.
Texas is home to Trump's newest cabinet picks: ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, whom the president-elect has selected for secretary of state, and former Gov. Rick Perry. Perry was chosen to lead the Energy Department, according to two people with knowledge of the decision who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the decision ahead of the official announcement. Texas has been involved in more than 40 lawsuits against the Obama administration, and a Trump presidency is likely to dull eight years of antagonism with the federal government.
But Abbott also told reporters in his Capitol office that choices Trump has yet to make will impact major issues confronting the state's Republican-controlled Legislature next year. Texas spends $800 million a year on border security — the cost of hundreds of new troopers, patrol boats and spy planes — but that price tag is likely to face renewed scrutiny with a state budget crunch looming.
Abbott said Texas could scale back on those costs depending on what a Trump administration does along the 1,200-mile border with Mexico. Any changes in policy from Washington, however, may not come before Abbott must sign a new state budget next summer.
Abbott said he also wants to see whether Trump rolls back an Obama administrative order requiring public schools to let transgender students use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. The order came after North Carolina passed a bathroom law requiring transgender people to use restrooms in schools and government buildings that correspond to the gender on their birth certificate — drawing national backlash and causing the state to lose concerts and sporting events.
Business groups in Texas are already urging state leaders to not follow in North Carolina's footsteps. Yet Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Trump surrogate, has a called a "bathroom bill" one of his top priorities for next year.
Abbott, however, signaled he is taking a more cautious approach.
"This isn't an issue that should be determined without a full evaluation of all the information," Abbott said. "So we're in the information-gathering stage right now."
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