Dallas DA Crusades Against Budget Cuts

Craig Watkins says crime rates will go up if his budget cut

The Dallas County district attorney wants county commissioners to leave his office out of their mandate for budget cuts.

Facing a $60 million shortfall, Dallas County commissioners have ordered all departments to reduce their budgets by 10 percent to help avoid a tax increase.

"We have to work within the public checkbook that we've been given," Commissioner John Wiley Price said.

If the district attorney's office reduces its staff, crimes rates as well as costs will go up, said District Attorney Craig Watkins, who took office in 2007.

Watkins argues that Dallas is adding more police officers despite its much larger city budget shortfall. And the Harris County District Attorney’s Office has a much larger budget for a county of about the same population, he said.

"And hopefully we can convince our really good commissioners that the approach they are taking is just wrong," Watkins said.

“Yeah, right, so what is the sheriff? Chopped liver?” said Price when told of Watkins’ complaints.

Price, a fellow Democrat, has been a supporter of the district attorney. But he said other departments are doing their part in the budget crisis, and Watkins should, too.

"Either you have a workhorse or a show horse," Price said. "You just need to buckle down and work your budget like everyone else."

Commissioner Mike Cantrell, a Republican, will debate Watkins at a town hall meeting the DA is holding to build public support for his position.

"I submit to you he can make the necessary cuts to make his 10 percent and have no effect on public safety,” Cantrell said.

County commissioners have the final say over Watkins' budget, and they said they will make cuts for him if he refuses to do so himself.

The town hall meeting will be held at Garland City Hall at 7 p.m. Thursday.

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