AUSTIN (Nexstar) — In the upcoming November election, Texas voters will have three choices for who they want to manage the state’s finances as Comptroller of Public Accounts.
Texas comptroller, also known as the state’s chief financial officer, is tasked with appropriating, managing and reporting Texas’ multi-billion dollar budget. The agency monitors the economy and communicates with the state legislature in planning the budget.
Incumbent Glenn Hegar, a Republican, said he’s seeking a third term because he wants to continue ensuring Texas is in a healthy fiscal state for generations to come.
“There’s been a lot of uncertainty in the national, the global economy over the course of the last two and a half years and watching Texas be able to grow out of the pandemic downturn, continue to improve,” he said. “It’s important that we continue to be on the trajectory of economic opportunity and economic development for people in the state of Texas.”
He faces a challenge from Democrat Janet Dudding, a certified public accountant of 35 years from Bryan-College Station.
She’s touting her resume as a governmental accountant and said she hopes to take a new approach to the office if elected.
Dudding has criticized Hegar, saying she doesn’t think he has maximized Texans’ taxpayer dollars. Instead, she wants to use the state to focus on expanding services to Texans in need.
“We’ve got the ninth largest economy in the world, the second largest economy in the nation — and yet we’re 45th in public [education], 43rd in public health, 41st in air and water quality,” she said.
There’s also a third candidate, V. Alonzo Echevarria-Garza, who is running as a Libertarian. Nexstar attempted to reach out to Echevarria-Garza to extend the same interview opportunity but could not find a campaign website or contact information.
Nexstar interviewed the candidates about their top priorities. It’s worth noting, the comptroller does not have the power to decide how Texas spends its money but can make recommendations to the legislature.
Dudding is proposing an in-depth study of “the methodology of the procedures that are used in property tax appraisals” and the removal of Texas Tax Code Chapter 313 — an agreement between the state and companies that choose to bring businesses here, in exchange for a 10-year discount on their property tax bills.
“We need to get together with…the legislature…tear this thing apart and rework it so that it’s more equitable. We shouldn’t be forced out of our houses because of taxes,” Dudding said.
Hegar said he’s concerned about housing affordability and property taxes. Many key Republican lawmakers have already signaled a desire to cut property taxes in the upcoming 2023 legislative session, but the incumbent did not indicate whether or not he supports doing so. His campaign website, however, describes him as “a relentless fighter against tax increases on hard-working Texans.”
U.S. Census Bureau data shows nearly 2.8 million households lack broadband access and high-speed internet connectivity.
The state legislature created a broadband development office, delegating it under the Texas Comptroller’s purview.
Hegar said outside of the chief duties of his office, his first and foremost priority is to connect Texans to the internet.
“My office is in charge of the federal dollars that are coming down and setting up procedures and processes upon which we’re going to try to work with the private sector to grant dollars and get dollars out so we can connect the state of Texas,” he said.
Dudding applauds the work started by Hegar, but she would like to expand broadband even further.
“Now is like the perfect opportunity with the money coming down from the federal government from the Biden administration,” Dudding said.
According to Dudding’s campaign website, she would also like to “explore local broadband as a utility fund of local governments to keep costs down, provide reliable service and… a revenue stream to rural local governments.”
Legalization of marijuana, as it relates to tax revenue
Hegar does not support the legalization of marijuana, saying he is not convinced taxing it would significantly boost the state’s revenue.
“Other states that have legalized marijuana and the usage of it they’ve also seen that the black market has actually thrived,” he said. “I think we’re going to create a lot more problems than we would otherwise if we legalize it across the state of Texas for everyday use.”
Dudding on the other hand fully supports legalizing marijuana and thinks taxing and regulating the product would be beneficial to the state.
“We’ve got enough other states that have legalized adult use recreationally that we can build best practices and build a Texas model,” she said. “It’s legal almost everywhere else. It’s time to get with the program.”
Early voting begins Oct. 24. Election Day is Nov. 8.