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Hilderbran bullish on Texas at RLAT meeting

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Bandera County's representative-in-waiting to the Texas House of Representatives spoke at the Ranchers and Landowners Association meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 24.

While 23-year veteran politician Harvey Hilderbran is definitely not a newcomer to the Texas House of Representatives, as a result of statewide redistricting, he might seem newly minted to some local voters.

Results of the 2010 census moved Bandera County out of Rep. Doug Miller's 73rd District and into Hilderbran's 53rd District, which currently includes Crockett, Sutton, Schliecher, Real, Kerr, Kimble, Menard, Mason, Llano, San Saba, McCulloch, Concho, Coleman, Runnels and Callahan counties. Until further notice, Bandera will become part of the 53rd District on Jan. 1, 2013.

Due to recent political upheavals, even the eventual district switcheroo comes with a caveat.

"As a result of the United States Supreme Court decision, there are currently no counties in District 53," Hilderbarn said. According to a press release from the Office of the Texas Attorney General, on Friday, Jan. 20, Supreme Court justices ruled invalid an interim redistricting map as drawn by a three-judge panel from San Antonio,. Apparently, in the draft process, the jurists did not adequately take into consideration a map previously approved by the state's Republican-controlled legislature.

"Because it is unclear whether the District Court for the Western District of Texas followed the appropriate standards in drawing interim maps for the 2012 Texas elections, the orders implementing those maps are vacated, and the cases are remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion," the high court said in its ruling.

As a result of the continued kerfuffle, Hilderbran introduced the specter of the Lone Star State two primary elections - one for president and local offices in April and another for US Congress and the Texas House in May or June. "This would cost use more money and decrease the number of participating voters," he said.

However, Hilderbran noted that in both preliminary redistricting maps, Bandera County was included in the 53rd District. For his part, he seemed pleased with his new contngent of rural charges.

"The people of Bandera County are active and interested in government and citizens' and property rights," Hilderbran said. "This is a great fit for me."

The Uvalde County native also lived in Bandera County in his youth. "I grew up farming and ranching," he said, adding that, at one time, his family owned property that included not only rangeland, but also 500 acres of irrigated farmland.

Hilderbran served as a legislative assistant in Washington, DC, working on the 1985 Farm Bill under President Ronald Reagan. Later, he was employed by the Texas Farm Bureau in Austin specializing in property and water rights issues.

With money - or the lack there of - uppermost on everyone's minds, Hilderbran updated RLAT membership about how the 82nd Legislature dealt with the state's recent $15 to $25 billion - depending on media reports - budget deficit.

While the latest shortfall was the largest projected one in state history, others, equally as problematic, had occurred in 1991 and 2003, he said. In 2003, Republican legislators solved a projected $10 billion deficit by cutting expenditures and attracting more federal money.

According to Hilderbran, in this "pay-as-you-go" state, the Texas Constitution mandates a balanced budget - for which the comptroller is ultimately responsible. "A balanced budget was passed in 2007, but in 2008 the bottom fell out, and the downturn in the economy threw the budget out of balance," he said.

"Not only is Texas a historically fiscally conservative state, but it also has a smaller government that states of a similar size," Hilderbran said. "Our legislature passed sound fiscal policies and, as a result, our economy is recovering faster than that of other states. Texas entered (the recession) last and recovered faster."

Additionally, he said that Texas' record-breaking collections of sale taxes in November exceeded pre-recession rates.

"Unless there's a national double-dip recession - and if things continue the way they have been going, that's a possibility - we'll come into the next legislative session with a $3 to $4 billion surplus," Hilderbran predicted. "We're doing great and I'm confident about the surplus."

Pictured: Photo by Judith Pannebaker
Texas District 53 Rep. Harvey Hilderbran briefed Ranchers & Landowners Association of Texas Legislative Chairman Cynthia Payne - and RLAT members - about what to expect during the 83rd Texas Legislature a Tuesday, Jan. 24, RLAT meeting.