The Comptroller of Public Accounts has an inquisitorial quality about it. While reforms throughout the 1980s and the 1990s gradually gave the office most of the powers of the former State Treasurer position, its two original duties are still arguably the most important. The Comptroller is charged within collecting the taxes of the State of Texas, namely the sales tax and excise taxes. The post also comes up with a biennial revenue estimate, which the Comptroller relays to the State Legislature, and the legislature is compelled to use when writing their budget.
Without a doubt, the current officeholder of this position, Susan Combs, has failed in both respects. Tax revenue has been down around the state considering our population. This stands in stark contrast to some of the bombastic Democrats, namely Bob Bullock, who have held this position in the past. Bullock infamously organized high-profile raids to tax evaders, and cleaned up inefficiencies and corruptions to ensure that coffers remained filled. His two successors, John Sharp and Carole Keeton Strayhorn, one a Democrat and one a Republican, also ensured that revenue forecasts were accurate.
This is greatly important, because an incompetent or malevolent Comptroller could fudge the numbers and wreak havoc on the state. That is precisely what happened in 2011 when Combs negligently low-balled the revenues, prompting enormously painful austerity cuts, especially to education, that just weren’t necessary.
Democratic candidate Mike Collier, a longtime CPA who calls himself “the watchdog,” pledges to fight exactly this type of ineptitude. Previously an apolitical person, Collier jumped into the race after witnessing the deleterious effects caused by Combs’ dereliction of her responsibilities. He wants to run the office better, not as a stepping stone to higher office but as an actual place of accounting and reasonable forecast.
In our opinion, the office of Comptroller should not be elected to begin with. And while lifelong politicians such as Bullock did great things with the post, the era of the goodhearted statesman is simply a thing of the past in the same respect as black-and-white televisions and horse drawn carriages.
The Republican candidate, State Senator Glenn Hegar (R-Harris County), is not an accountant or in any way well-versed in the financial sector. He is a farmer, and his claim to the fame in the legislature was authoring the omnibus anti-abortion bill that Wendy Davis filibustered. He offers no specifics as to how to improve upon the office form Combs and his campaign has consisted of little more than right-wing sound bites heralding his support from anti-abortion rights and anti-LGBT interest groups.
Hegar, in one of the few issues pertaining to the office he is actually running for, advocating lessening property taxes. This is all good and fun, as few Texans besides masochists in Austin would actually be comfortable with their property tax bill, but Hegar’s proposed alternative is much, much worse. He wishes to replace the property tax with a new statewide sales tax that climbs more than 20 cents on the dollar. This stupid — and there just isn’t a better word for it — regressive tax would greatly hurt the poorest among us. It would result in an effective tax hike for a majority of the population.
Like many of this year’s elections, the choice in November is crystal clear. Collier is qualified, would do the job capably and does not want to raise your taxes. Hegar is not qualified, would not do the job capably and wants to raise your taxes. Don’t raise taxes, vote Democrat.
Accordingly, this board endorses Mike Collier for Comptroller of Public Accounts.
The Texpatriate Editorial Board is comprised of Noah M. Horwitz & Olivia Arena of Austin, George Bailey of Boston, Luis Fayad of College Station and Andrew Scott Romo of New Orleans. Editorials represent a majority opinion of the voting board.