The Accountant: Comptroller Glenn Hegar, Republican
Political power often comes from the capability to make consequential decisions. But it also sometimes results from performing better than your predecessor. Glenn Hegar, the state’s under-the-radar comptroller, has and does both. First, as the state’s chief financial officer, Hegar and his staff determine how much money lawmakers have available to spend in each two-year budget cycle. Because Texas is a pay-as-you-go state—meaning lawmakers can’t spend more than the revenue they have—his word is final, down to the last penny. That will be key this session, with reduced revenue and drums beating for tax cuts.
Hegar won his office in 2014, after his predecessor, Susan Combs, retired. Combs had a bumpy ride during her tenure. In 2013 she issued a revenue estimate that was far more optimistic than had been expected. That sounds like a good thing, but it became a serious problem for budget writers, who ended up having less money to spend than they thought. In 2011 Combs had the opposite problem; she underestimated how much money the state would have, and quite a few people around the Capitol believe the dire cuts of the 2011 session, particularly to public education, could have been minimized had the forecast been more accurate. Hegar has been sensitive to the damage those estimates caused and has earned high marks for the accuracy of his fiscal reports and his office’s transparency.
Hegar also showed a penchant for planning during the 2015 legislative session. He encouraged lawmakers to think about the state’s financial future and wisely asked that issues such as pension obligations, deferred maintenance of state facilities, transportation, and the Rainy Day Fund not be given short shrift. Of all the statewide officials who were elected in 2014, his stock has risen the most. The only question now is, Can he keep it up?