Tag Archives: Texas comptroller

Perry to Texas: don’t panic over oil prices


Rick Perry is mighty proud of the economic record he takes credit for building in the state he governed longer than anyone else in Texas history.

The former governor says Texans shouldn’t panic over the plummeting price of oil. West Texas crude now sits at about $32 per barrel.

The state’s diversification will help the state weather this economic storm, Perry said, citing what he called the “Texas miracle.”

I get that Perry wants to assure Texans that we’re going to be all right, unlike an earlier oil price crash that all but killed the state in the late 1980s.

Let’s get real here. The state still relies heavily on oil and natural gas to help fund state government at many levels.

Comptroller Glenn Hegar has been accused of offering what used to be called a “rosy scenario” with regard to the revenue the next Legislature will have when it convenes in January 2017. Perry is on the comptroller’s side.

Yes, the state has diversified significantly over the past 30 years. Amarillo and the Panhandle suffered grievously back then when the bottom fell out of the oil market. I was in Beaumont when it happened and witnessed the wholesale shutdown of petrochemical plants. That crash hurt. A lot.

Will this crash bring as much pain as the previous one? Probably not.

Amarillo’s burgeoning medical community will head off some of the misery. So will its growing service-sector economy. Pantex remains a top job provider.

Let’s not dismiss the pain and suffering that will befall public school systems — as well as public colleges and universities — that rely on funds generated by oil and natural gas royalties.

Gov. Perry says he knows what an economic downturn looks like.

The one that might be coming to Texas won’t look exactly like the previous one, but it’ll bring its share of hurt to Texans.


Can the state can cut taxes too deeply? Yes

Oil revenue is falling in Texas. The state depends on it to pay for state government.

Yet the bean counters in the Comptroller’s Office are being told by lawmakers — namely Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick — that the state is not going to ease up on providing tax relief for Texans.


Comptroller-elect Glenn Hegar’s task is to provide the Legislature with an estimate of how much money the state will have to spend the next two years.

But those darn oil prices make these projections so very tricky.

Should the state keep cutting taxes when its revenue stream has been put in jeopardy by forces beyond its control? I don’t think that’s wise government policy.

That doesn’t deter Patrick and his tax-cutting allies in the Legislature. Patrick told panelists at a Texas Public Policy Forum gathering: “We expect to be bold and we expect to be big in tax cuts and then I’m going to trust my good friend here the comptroller.”

The state Legislature, populated by a super-Republican majority led by a TEA party faction that just cannot cut taxes enough — even if it puts important government services in jeopardy — ought to resist the temptation to keep slashing revenue just for the sake of slashing revenue.

I doubt seriously, though, anyone in Austin will follow that course. It’s politically popular in Texas to cut, cut and cut some more.

Good luck, Mr. Comptroller, as you prepare to deliver the bad news to our elected representatives.

Oil price plunge: Good for U.S., bad for Texas

It’s become almost a truism that Texas marches to a different cadence than much of the rest of the country.

Take the plunging price of oil and gasoline. Millions upon million of Americans are cheering the good news, that they’re paying less for gas than they were yesterday, let alone a year ago. Meanwhile, Texas oil producers are crying the blues.

And then we have Texas government, which is likely now to face a serious shortfall in revenue derived from oil that’s pulled out of the ground in, say, the Permian Basin and along the Caprock here in the Panhandle.


What’s good for the rest of the county isn’t necessarily so for Texas. What to do?

Given that I don’t have a particular dog in this hunt — in the form of oil holdings that pay handsome royalties — I’m more than happy to see the price of gas continue to slide downward. It’s at $1.98 per gallon in Amarillo as of right now; it’s subject to change any moment.

The Texas Tribune link attached to this post notes that the state’s new comptroller, Glenn Hager, is facing a tough baptism in state government. He’ll have to produce some revenue forecasts for the next Legislature. At the rate the price of oil is falling, it’s becoming a bit problematic for the comptroller-elect to project anything for the next week, let alone for the next two years.

Gov.-elect Greg Abbott has proposed an ambitious start for his administration that will depend on money. Highway improvements? The amount of that money will depend on oil prices. Public education? Again, the state derives royalty money from oil and natural gas to help pay for public school.

So, while the rest of the country hails the falling price of oil and gasoline, lawmakers and statewide elected officials in Texas, which produces so much of it, are wringing their hands.

Yep, as the promotional slogan goes: Texas is like a whole other country.


Ideology paints non-ideological campaigns

Glenn Hegar is the Republican nominee for Texas comptroller of public accounts.

He wants to be the state’s bean-counter in chief. Hegar also wants voters to know that he’s a strong conservative. Does he necessarily tout his financial credentials? Not exactly. He talked during the primary campaign about his pro-life position and his religious devotion.

Interesting, yes?

Ryan Sitton is the GOP nominee for railroad commissioner. He said the same thing about himself as Hegar. He mailed out campaign literature touting his strong conservative credentials, including his strong support of gun owners rights.

Also interesting.

What’s strikes me, though, about these two examples is that the principals are seeking offices that have nothing to do with abortion, or God, or guns ownership. Hegar wants to be the comptroller, whose main job as defined by the Texas Constitution, is to provide legislators and the governor with an accurate accounting of the state’s fiscal condition. The job Sitton seeks is focused even more narrowly. Railroad commissioners regulate the oil and natural gas industry. That’s it. Heck they don’t even set policy for railroads or rail cars, which used to be part of their job.

We’re hearing a lot of ideological talk among candidates, almost exclusively on the Republican side, who are running for nuts-and-bolts offices.

I understand why legislative or congressional candidates would want to establish their ideological credentials with voters. They seek to write laws. The other folks simply carry out the laws enacted by lawmakers and signed by either the governor or the president of the United States.

I am hoping that as the fall campaign commences we hear more from the candidates about how they intend to manage the offices they seek and less from them about irrelevant ideology.

Radicalism rises in comptroller race

Who says radicalism is the sole province of the loony left?

A conservative candidate for Texas comptroller of public accounts has produced what some might call a kooky notion on taxation: get rid of local property taxes and replace them with a steep jump in the sales tax.


Step forward, Glenn Hegar, and explain how this is fair.

Hegar is the Republican nominee for comptroller. His Democratic opponent, Mike Collier, who seized immediately on Hegar’s idea. Incumbent Susan Combs chose to step down at the end of the year.

Hegar thinks property taxes effectively remove property owners’ rights to their own property because Texans pay a hefty bill to local government entities. In Randall County, where I live, we pay taxes to the city of Amarillo, the county, Amarillo College, the Canyon school system and a local water district. It all adds up — rapidly.

Hegar thinks getting rid of that tax is fair. He’ll have to replace it with some other revenue stream. Given that the Legislature hates income taxes so much — as do most Texans I’ve talked to over the years — he would need to hefty boost in the sales tax.

Is there a more regressive form of taxation that a tax on goods and services? No. Poor people pay the same sales tax as rich people when they purchase, say, fertilizer for their lawn or diapers for their children.

As the Texas Tribune reported: “Dumping property taxes would force the state to more than double its sales taxes or to shed services that voters say they want, like schools, roads, prisons and health and human services. That’s the focus of Collier’s attack. If it sticks, he will have Hegar on the run. If it goes nowhere, he can always try something else.”

It’s not as if Texans don’t already shoulder a significant tax bill, even without a state income tax.

The Tribune stated: “According to the Tax Foundation, it has the 14th-highest state and local property taxes and the 11th-highest state and local sales taxes.”

“If you’re buying a $30,000 car, a 20 percent sales tax is kind of a big deal,” said Dale Craymer, president of the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association in remarks to the Tribune. The state sales tax is 6.25 percent, and most local governments — such as Amarillo — add another two cents.

So, the GOP candidate for comptroller wants to boost our sales tax burden even more?

Gosh, do you think the race for Texas bean-counter in chief is going to get interesting? Hold on. This one could sizzle.

Hats off to Hildebran

I’ll be brief with this post.

My hat goes off to Harvey Hildebran for saving Texans money by conceding the Republican race for Texas comptroller of public accounts to Glenn Hegar, the Katy state representative who finished first in the GOP primary, far ahead of Hildebran.

Yes, there will be other runoffs, but just not one for comptroller.


First of all, I kind of liked Hildebran’s TV ads. They were constructive and they dealt with how he would run the comptroller’s office. They didn’t attack the other guys.

Then he decided he didn’t have enough votes among the also-rans in the GOP field to challenge Hegar, who came within less than 200 votes statewide of capturing the party nomination outright.

Hildebran could have fought on. He didn’t. He is backing Hegar.

In the process, he’s saving Texans some money by not requiring the state to have a runoff election in this contest.

Thanks, Mr. Hildebran.

Support for unborn?

OK, I’m going to need some help with this one.

State Rep. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, wants to become Texas bean counter in chief, aka, the comptroller of public accounts. He’s running in a crowded Republican field to succeed outgoing GOP Comptroller Susan Combs, who decided against seeking re-election in 2014.

Hegar has a TV ad running in which he promotes “Texas’s business climate and our unwavering support for the unborn.”


Where can I use the help? I need help understanding why a Texas comptroller candidate’s views on abortion should matter.

I get that Hegar opposes abortion. I get that it is his right to declare that view for voters to consider. I also get that abortion is an undeniably controversial matter in Texas; the mere mention of the word “abortion” stirs passion on both sides of the great divide.

However, the Texas Constitution gives the comptroller power to advise the Legislature on the state’s fiscal standing every biennium. The comptroller is tasked by the Constitution to report to the governor and lieutenant governor the amount of money the state is going to take in, which in turn gives lawmakers guidance on how the state can balance its budget, which also is required by the Texas Constitution.

I am unaware of any statutory requirement for the office that requires the comptroller to decide whether abortion should be legal in Texas.

I’ll admit I haven’t read every word of the Texas Constitution, which has been amended about a zillion times. However, what am I missing here? Does it matter one bit whether Rep. Hegar favors or opposes a woman’s right to end a pregnancy?