When Harvey Hilderbran was put in charge of the House tax writing committee, he said he’d bring relief to Texans. A report in today’s Austin American Statesman shows tax cuts are nowhere in sight. That he’s having trouble selling the near super-majority of Republicans in the House on even his meager plan to pass targeted loopholes instead of broad relief is telling. And this guy wants to run for statewide office in 2014. Seriously.

Appointed by House Speaker Joe Straus to chair the Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Hilderbran (R-Kerrville) said at the time that he wanted to make the state’s tax code “fairer and simpler” and then promised to be “introducing legislation for tax reform and relief for all Texans.”

Yeah, that isn’t happening.

Mr. Hilderbran’s claim of “relief for all Texans” has taken the form of highly targeted tax cuts for corporate friends, like the San Antonio tech-firm RackSpace. The closest he is coming to “fairer and simpler” is making permanent the small business exemption to the odious gross margins tax.

But that won’t actually bring any relief — small businesses already have that protection, it just hasn’t been permanent.

On April 15, Mr. Hilderbran happily stood alongside Gov. Rick Perry at a press conference trumpeting a plan for $1.6 billion in tax cuts. He’ll nod along when someone talks the talk, but…

Two weeks later, the Austin American Statesman is reporting that Mr. Hilderbran is only looking at pushing on less than third of what was promised two weeks ago. Maybe. But he doesn’t “want to put a number out there.” He told the paper that he “can’t get in the business of having a fight on every one of those.”

Those what? Loopholes for buddies for future contributors? So it would seem.

With a near super-majority of 95 Republicans in the 150-member Texas House, tax relief should be easy — it only takes a majority vote to do it. But Mr. Hilderbran clearly couldn’t manage the task.

Sure, sure, he’ll no doubt want to claim his legislative betters — Mr. Straus and the chief lieutenants Charlie Geren of Fort Worth and Todd Hunter of Corpus Christi – probably told him to kill anything resembling real tax relief for Texans; they have spending to do, after all.

That won’t explain his own inaction. An Austin-based blog on Friday posted a video with Mr. Hilderbran where he said “responsible” tax cuts can only be accomplished one of two ways: “either replace it with another source, or prove up that the economy will grow fast enough as a result of that policy change.” Notice: no mention of spending cuts.

All of this makes Mr. Hilderbran’s flirtations with running for statewide office rather comical. He couldn’t deliver on what he promised, but now he wants to be the next Comptroller or something? Good luck…

He’ll have a hard time convincing the voters in a statewide GOP primary he needs a promotion when clearly his present job is a bit too much for him. Can’t pass tax relief with 95 Republicans…? That’s just horribly ineffective, Harvey.

Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. He is a native Texan, a graduate of Texas A&M, and an Eagle Scout. Previously, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine contributor, Capitol Hill staffer, and think tank vice president. Michael and his wife have three adult children, a son-in-law, and a dog. Michael is the author of three books, including "Reflections on Life and Liberty."


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