Longtime certified public accountant and Democratic Texas Comptroller candidate Janet Dudding said the Republican incumbent Glenn Hager isn’t stretching taxpayer dollars enough to provide Texans better services for less money.
The Signal spoke with Janet Dudding about her run for Texas Comptroller, green energy, the cannabis industry, expanding Medicaid, and more.
“The comptroller has the bully pulpit when it comes to dollars,” she said. “The office is designed to be independent. In other words because it’s elected by people as opposed to appointed, the comptroller is not beholden to anyone but the taxpayer or the voter who voted that person in.”
For context, the Texas comptroller position handles collecting the state’s tax revenue and acts as the state’s chief financial officer or, in simplest terms, the state’s accountant.
“All the debts and all the credits, all the money coming in and going out,” she said. “In conjunction with that, all the tax collections coming in, all the grants coming in, and compliance over both of those come through the comptroller’s office. ”
As one of the leading economies in the United States, Dudding said the state could be doing so much more to help Texans. In addition to handling the state’s money, the comptroller’s position is also in charge of financing green energy.
Dudding, a hurricane Katrina survivor, said reducing greenhouse gases and utilizing methane efficiently can help the state environmentally and economically.
“We’ve got all this state-owned land, and if we can capture methane on state-owned land and make a dent in the amount that Texas produces; if it works, we can use it as a prototype,” she said. “It makes money because methane is a fuel, and the state earns royalty revenue on top of it.”
As the leading oil and gas energy capital, Texas produces the most methane in the United States. More specifically, Houston has 350 sites alone in the area.
Moreover, Dudding said environmental disasters are costing the state more money which usually falls primarily on Texas taxpayers. If the state starts to look for solutions in green jobs and living standards, the state could see potential in economic growth, Dudding added.
“It’s just costing us billions of dollars in damages just to reduce it into debits and credits which is what the comptroller does,” she said. “And no one is saying that we’re getting rid of oil and gas. We’re the world’s leader in energy so let’s be the leader in innovative energy.”
In addition to advocating for green energy, Dudding said legalizing and decriminalizing cannabis would save the state money and increase the economy overall. And through legislation, Dudding added, Texas can choose exactly where the money goes.
“If we want to take a real hard look at how we’re doing property tax appraisals, we need a fresh revenue stream to try to alleviate the burden on property taxes,” she said. “I would think you would want to tax it as a sales tax … but whether it’s mental health, education etc., we can have more control over where we want that new revenue stream to go.”
At the same time, Dudding said she wants the state to examine the records of people who have been adversely affected by the War on Drugs and then be allowed to apply for licenses in the cannabis industry.
Furthermore, Dudding said expanding Medicaid in the state is necessary to help a lot Texans who are struggling with premiums and copays. Even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Dudding said it doesn’t make sense for the state to continue wasting federal dollars when Texans need coverage.
“My husband and I are both alive today because we have access to healthcare, and I think everybody should be able to if you got something going on, go and take care of it,” she said. “Worse than that is that they shifted the cost burden on to property tax, and that’s just not right. Why would you spend your local property tax on something that should be paid for with fed/state money?”
Another issue important to Dudding is helping Texas public school personnel, including teachers, janitors, administrators, etc., receive an equitable compensation package. According to statistics, Texas is one of 15 states that don’t offer all public school employees Social Security benefits. Because of the system that allows school distrcits to decide on a plan only 17 of the 1,247 school districts offer some sort of retirement benefits for employees.
With an increasing teacher shortage in the Lone Star State, Dudding said it’s time to change the system.
“Social security at least has a Cost of Living adjustment on it, whereas the Teachers Retirement System hasn’t had a cost of living adjustment on that thing for over a decade,” she said. “I know that salaries need to be adjusted, and I’m really curious to look at the number of premiums that teachers have to pay. With teachers, all of us have seen just how important they are.”
Early voting for the Texas Primary starts on Feb. 14 and the primary election day is on March 1, 2022.