Tag Archives: Texas comptroller

Waiting on an answer

Perhaps you have experienced as well a frustration I am about to express, which deals with a public official’s apparent refusal to provide a direct answer to a direct question.

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar has been running a re-election campaign ad in which he declares that he “distributed $3 billion” to buttress the state’s border security. Hegar, therefore, is taking direct credit for acting under his own discretion to spend the money to secure our border. The Republican officeholder, quite naturally, is critical of the nation’s top Democrat, President Biden, over federal border policies.

My question went to the head of the comptroller’s media relations office. I sent an email and the question is this: Does Comptroller Hegar have the discretion to distribute $3 billion for border security as he sees fit, which he implies in his campaign ad, or is that distribution mandated by the Legislature and/or the governor? The media guy has gotten two messages from me. No answer.

I don’t know why he hasn’t answered my question. I believe it is clear and concise. All he has to do is say “yes” or “no,” if he doesn’t want to spend any time explaining himself or the state agency’s policy.

My concern about Hegar’s ad is that it might be misleading. In fact, I believe it is misleading. You see, the Legislature appropriates money and then directs agency heads — even those elected to their office — to spend it according to what the legislation prescribes. So, when Glenn Hegar tells TV viewers that he “distributed” the money, he leaves the impression that he has sole authority to spend the money as he sees fit. It’s all part of the GOP narrative I keep hearing played out during this primary election season: Republican officials are doing the job that the feds are supposed to be doing; therefore, the message goes, Joe Biden is failing at his job. In fact, Hegar’s ad opens with that very statement, that “Biden is failing.”

Candidates for Texas attorney general are saying it, too, even though the AG is mainly a civil litigator. They’re all proclaiming how they’re going to get tough on criminals crossing the border into Texas “illegally,” of course, to do harm to helpless Texans who will fall victim to their criminal intent.

Well, I’ll be patient and wait this one out. I just find it hilarious that the guy who serves as the state’s top bean counter would portray himself as a tough-as-nails crime fighter.


Watch for phony heroics among GOP candidates

Clearly it has become open season on the Joe Biden administration among Texas Republican candidates for public office. They all seem intent on positioning themselves as the polar opposites of the Democratic president … even if the office they seek has little to do with anything related to federal policy.

The Texas comptroller of public accounts provides an interesting example of what I am talking about.

The GOP incumbent Glenn Hegar is running a TV ad in which he declares that he is going to fight the Biden administration over protecting our southern border. How is he going to do that?

Hegar’s ad proclaims that he spent $3 billion on border security. I was wondering about an issue related to that bit of braggadocio: Does the comptroller have the discretionary authority to just send $3 billion in that manner, or must he do what the Legislature and the governor tell him to do?

I asked someone who covers state government extensively about that matter. He responded that government agencies have limited authority in some cases to exercise discretion in spending money, but the border money to which Hegar referred isn’t one of them. I have posed the question to the public information officer for the comptroller’s office and haven’t heard back from him.

I am left to wonder whether Hegar is misrepresenting his authority on that border security issue so he can muster up some anti-President Biden anger among Republican primary voters.

I will report back to you the response I get from the comptroller’s media flack.

Meantime, I’ll leave it to you to decide whether the state’s top bean counter — Glenn Hegar — might be, um, overstating his role in “keeping Texans safe from illegal immigrants.”



Hegar joins border fight

Give me a break, Glenn Hegar. The state’s chief bean counter has now entered the fight to “protect our border” against criminals and assorted bad actors.

Yep, that’s right. Glenn Hegar is seeking re-election as Texas comptroller of public accounts. So, what — and who — does the Republican incumbent target? President Biden, who he says has allowed the border to get out of control.

I saw Hegar’s TV ad for the first time this evening. I practically fell out of my chair!

Wait a second! Hegar’s office is responsible for telling the Legislature how much it has on hand to appropriate every odd-numbered year when lawmakers gather in legislative session.

He is the state’s top accountant, for cryin’ out loud! What is he doing now trying to inject himself into the border fight?

Let’s see, I think I know. Glenn Hegar has joined the GOP demagoguery brigade. I would laugh out loud … except that it just isn’t funny.


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?