The Texas Comptroller is an incredibly unique position, one without a readily identifiable counterpart at the local or national level. At first glance, one might think the job predominantly revolves around managing and keeping the State’s money. While the Comptroller may do many of these functions today, they were not and are not the prime duties of the office. Indeed, the office of State Treasurer had originally completed these tasks. The prime responsibility of the Comptroller of Public Accounts is to forecast revenue for the upcoming biennium, which in turn binds the Legislature as to how much money it may appropriate throughout its session. These estimates are important, because they can make or break just how painful the austerity in any particular year will be. For example, the incumbent Comptroller, Susan Combs, greatly underestimated revenue a few years ago –for ideological reasons– leading to excessive cuts.
This board has not been impressed by Combs’ tumultuous tenure in office. Putting ideology above the welfare of the State has led to disastrous results, most notably the painful cuts to Education in the 2011 session. Accordingly, we would be remiss to continue with business as usual by supporting her handpicked choice as successor, State Senator Glenn Hegar. Rather than talking about accounting, Hegar has seemed very busy on the campaign trail touting his stance on abortion. Rather than aspiring to be a protector of the State’s financial integrity, Hegar appears content to protect the integrity of the 2nd Amendment. We fail to see how either has anything to do with the office of Comptroller.
Instead, we look towards State Representative Harvey Hilderbran. As Chairman of the House Ways & Means committee, Hilderbran has extensive knowledge on the financial needs facing our State. Additionally, unlike Hegar, he is not afraid to confront and disagree with the incumbent. Hilderbran has specifically been critical of Combs’ erroneous estimates in the past.
Additionally, Hilderbran has recently pledged to bring back an old hallmark of Democratic control: Comptroller Performance Reviews. The reviews, which were started by former Comptroller (later Lieutenant Governor) Bob Bullock and continued by his successor, John Sharp (both Democrats), were a form of studies the Comptroller’s office did in order to best understand how to frugally spend money, a revolutionary new way of eliminating waste that was even imitated by President Clinton.
The idea is important to this board, as it shows us that Hilderbran still values bipartisan ideas. Indeed, it was the Democrat in this race who first revived talk of these Performance Reviews in this election. Hilderbran understands the need for pragmatism and compromise. After all, he surely remembers what it feels like to be in the minority; when Hilderbran first took office in 1989, there were a mere 59 Republicans (out of 150) in the State House.
We also recognize two other candidates in this race –former Wharton County GOP Chair Debra Medina and former State Representative Raul Torres. However, we believe neither is adequately experienced or prepared to lead the financial position of the State. Medina has neither served in the Legislature or held a sufficient job in the private sector. Instead, the experience she points to is her time as a small businesswoman. Perhaps that would make her a good fit to run for the House, but a Statewide position should definitely not be on her radar. Similarly, we believe that Torres –while well intentioned– is unfit for such an important job.
A recent report by Big Jolly Politics that chronicles Torres’ time at a recent Comptroller forum was troubling, to say the least. Torres was depicted as confused about his own record, and desperately unprepared for the event. We wonder how he could be prepared for a Statewide office if he found a simple debate so challenging.
Accordingly, this board endorses Harvey Hilderbran in the Republican primary for Comptroller. Mike Collier is unopposed in the Democratic primary.
The Texpatriate Editorial Board is comprised of Noah M. Horwitz & Olivia Arena of Austin, Sophia Arena of Houston, George Bailey of Boston and Andrew Scott Romo of New Orleans. Editorials represent the majority opinion of the board.