susan combs

Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

What a difference a fact makes.

Texas politics jumped from the speculative to the competitive realm Wednesday with Comptroller Susan Combs's announcement that she wouldn't seek re-election and the nearly instant expressions of interest from a half-dozen people who'd like that job.

Photo by KUT News

The end of a legislative session usually triggers the beginning of the next election cycle. But before anyone could throw his or her hat in the ring, we had an incumbent exit the arena.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune

Comptroller Susan Combs announced Wednesday that she will not seek re-election and that she is retiring from public office at the end of her term in 2015. Combs, who had been positioning herself to run for lieutenant governor, will not run for that post or other elective office. 

"It is with a deep sense of gratitude for the past, coupled with excitement for the future, that I announce today I will not be seeking elective office in 2014," Combs said in a statement, adding that she would keep working on several policy priorities, but that she wanted to spend more time on her West Texas ranch. "I want to make my intentions clear as soon as possible for prospective statewide candidates."

Steve Jurvetson via Texas Tribune

When Texas promised to protect a threatened lizard in the oil-rich Permian Basin, state officials entrusted the day-to-day oversight to a nonprofit that sounds like an environmental group: the Texas Habitat Conservation Foundation.

What’s not advertised is the occupation of the board members who created it.

After talks between online retailer Amazon.com and the state over paying sales taxes collapsed last year, the parties have reached an agreement.

The Office of the State Comptroller and Amazon stated today that beginning in July, Amazon – which had a distribution center in Irving, Texas – will begin paying state sales tax.

Amazon also announced it will “create at least 2,500 jobs and make at least $200 million in capital investments” in Texas, over the next four years.

Photo courtesy of Circuit of the Americas

Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson wants the Attorney General’s office to investigate whether Comptroller Susan Combs has the authority to commit taxpayer money to the Formula One races that could still come to Austin next year.  

Race organizers were hoping to get $250 million over ten years from the state’s Major Events Trust Fund.

Patterson, never one to mince words, called the deal a “real turkey” in a news release.

Photo by Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

This has been a busy year for state Comptroller Susan Combs.

The state Legislature began the year with a deficit in the current budget and a $28 billion shortfall in the next one, a financial predicament that put a heavy load on the state's chief financial officer. Last spring, her aides announced the agency had left personal information about 3.5 million current and former public school and state employees in an unsecure spot on her agency's website. After that news had been knocked around in public for several days, she took responsibility and fired some of her agency's technology managers. She has since beefed up the agency's privacy standards and has consultants working to see what harm was actually done. Separately, but also central to her political future, she changed her position on abortion rights. All of this came after she told the Tribune she might be interested in running for lieutenant governor in 2014 should the opportunity present itself.

Photo by Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

Comptroller Susan Combs has switched her position on abortion rights, from pro-choice to pro-life, she said in an interview with The Texas Tribune this morning.

Combs and her husband Joe also contributed $5,000 to the South Austin Crisis Pregnancy Center. Combs said the state needs to focus its policies on more counseling for young women.

Combs said flatly that she has changed her position on the abortion issue, moving from a "pro-choice, but not pro-abortion" position to opposition to abortions. "I’m unequivocal about it. I was wrong," she said.

Photo by Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

Hey, Texplainer: What are the State Comptroller’s Events Trust Funds, and how do they work?

With ground broken on the Formula 1 Circuit of the Americas racetrack southeast of Austin, the racing venue recently found itself in a dispute between the city of Austin and State Comptroller Susan Combs over the use of one of four trust funds intended to encourage the hosting of events in Texas. The funds provide money upfront to host events before the state recovers the money from hotel, alcoholic beverage, car rental, sales, and general use taxes in the period during and after the event.

Photo by Bob Daemmrich

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs has announced another move to help the 3.5 million Texans who had their personal data exposed by her state office. Earlier initiatives to help Texans in the Teacher's Retirement System, Employees Retirement System and Texas Workforce Commission provided discounted subscriptions to credit monitoring services.

Now, Combs says she'll use campaign funds to pay for one year of credit monitoring and Internet surveillance - along with identity restoration services. Combs talked with Ben Philpott, who covers state politics and policy for KUT and the Texas Tribune, about the data breach. You can hear the full interview below.

Image by KUT News

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs says the state has more money to spend. 

In a letter to Texas lawmakers today, Combs says sales tax receipts in recent months had increased enough for her to raise her pervious revenue estimate by 300-million dollars for the current budget.  She also increased the amount of money lawmakers have to spend in the next budget. 

The increase helps a little but does not make a huge dent in the multi-billion dollar budget hole.

Photo by KUT News

The state comptroller's office reports that Austin will see a 13% increase in sales tax revenue for January.

Texas took in over $1.81 billion for December, a 9% jump over December 2009.  In a news release, Comptroller Susan Combs noted that this is the ninth straight month of year-to-year gains.  In her budget estimate released earlier this week, Combs predicted sales tax revenue to continue rising this year and through the next biennium.

Image courtesy Comptroller's Office

As state leaders look for places to trim spending underneath a looming budget shortage that could surpass $20 billion, the Texas Comptroller Susan Combs today unveiled a new online tool that she says will allow anyone to rate how well schools are using money.