Comptroller Forum – Medina: Texas' Finances Aren't Conservative

Comptroller Forum – Medina: Texas' Finances Aren't Conservative

As the CFO of the State, the Comptroller has a lot to do with promoting a positive business culture in Texas.  The Comptroller should foster cooperation with businesses to help them meet their obligations in the most efficient manner possible, so they can get back to serving their customers.  The more time and money a business spends in compliance, the less time and money they have to actually do the business they were created to do.  The current collect-as-much-revenue-as-possible culture in the Comptroller’s office hurts Texas businesses, and promotes a system where who you know is more important in determining your tax burden than what you owe. That’s not fair, and it’s not how we ought to be doing things in Texas.

Texas may be a conservative state, but our state finances are handled in a manner that is anything but conservative. Instead of focusing on the core functions of government, and trying to impose the least amount of interference in the lives of Texans, the legislature is often inundated with spending plans in search of a dollar.  Instead of recognizing the threat the federal government poses, especially under the Obama administration, Texas leaders seem as though they have caught ‘Washington-itis’; piling taxes, fees, and regulations on Texans in order to get more money to spend, and making special deals for the powerful and well-connected.  They may want to spend money on things that sound good and get votes, but they often forget to ask: ‘Is this something Texas should be doing as a core function of government?  Have we met all our constitutional obligations before we venture into this other area?  Are we promoting freer markets?’ 

It is not all the fault of the senators and representatives, though. The Legislature relies on the Comptroller’s office to give accurate and updated revenue projections.  But we have seen chaos ensue in Austin with wildly differing estimates: in one session legislators are scrambling to cut the budget due to projections of a shortfall, and the next they’re forced to deal with a ‘windfall’ that opens the floodgates to more spending. The Comptroller should provide frequent updates and budget to actual comparisons around revenue projections so that legislators can make better-informed decisions about spending priorities. But the Comptroller should also be informing the lawmakers in a much more detailed way about the potential impact of policies and legislation on the people and the economy of Texas.  The question should not be merely ‘How much do we have to spend?’ The question should be ‘Is this moving Texas in the right direction, towards freedom and prosperity?’ 

Texas is booming, and we are still not paying our bills, resorting to accounting tricks to balance the budget and meet our obligations and putting a great burden on the backs of future generations as we continue to amass a pile of debt.  If we have this much difficulty living within our means, paying as we go, when times are pretty good, what will we do when we hit a downturn in the economy?  What happens when events out of our control, like the federal government’s policies, make staying in business impossible for some companies, even in Texas? 

Texas is doing better right now than any other state in the country overall. Businesses are relocating here every week, and people are moving here from all around the country to be a part of Texas’ success.  But that won’t last if we continue to see stories like the recent news that Texas fell out of the NFIB’s list of Top Ten Business Climates.  It’s going to take strong leadership to weather all the damage that this administration and Washington D.C.’s policies are inflicting on us.  We have to prepare for the worst while fostering the best business climate in the world. 

Texans deserve fair, accurate, and accountable government, and a leader who will do the right thing for our state. As Comptroller, I want to help set Texas on the path to be free, prosperous, and a beacon of hope and opportunity. We won’t get there if we continue to do business as usual.  We have to set our sights higher. We have to create the best business climate, level the playing field for all businesses, provide the best and most accurate information to taxpayers and legislators, and plan for the future in a way that keeps Texas as free as possible from Washington and Austin’s intervention. 

That is my vision for the office of Comptroller, and for the future of Texas: a free, prosperous state with unlimited potential and unlimited opportunity.  Let’s make that a reality together.

 Debra Medina is a candidate for Texas Comptroller.