HOUSTON – A wonderful feature of American politics is the constituent’s opportunity to hear two potential political leaders publicly discuss their positions on critical issues. However, in this year’s gubernatorial election between incumbent Rick Perry and ex-Houston mayor Bill White, this does not seem to be the case. The August 13th edition of the Houston Chronicle describes Rick Perry’s position that he will not debate his opponent Bill White, until White releases more of his income tax returns. White has released all of his income tax returns from his time as the mayor of Houston, but Perry wants the returns from White’s time as deputy energy secretary under President Clinton. The next logical question to ask after this information is: Why? It is always beneficial to know if our political leaders have been honest with public and private finances, but upon further research of both candidates’ fiscal patterns in office, it seems that Bill White’s record is much more transparent.
Rick Perry has been the governor of Texas for the past 10 years. During this time, Perry has had a less than straightforward record. In 2003, Perry signed the Texas Enterprise Fund that was designed to boost the Texas economy. Part of that fund included a $20 million grant to Countrywide Financial with the idea that they would create over 7,000 jobs in the next few years. However, as the economy started to go downhill, Countrywide Financial was unable meet their end of the agreement when they were bought by Bank of America. In 2006, Perry was re-elected based on the idea that he would lower property taxes. He signed legislation that provided some $15 billion in property tax reductions. However, he advocated a state franchise tax in his tax reform bill, which some called a “back door” state income tax. Perhaps the worst example of Perry’s fiscal irresponsibility is his personal spending. According to a “Don’t Mess with Ethics” report on spending in the Texas government, Perry is reported to be spending over $4,000 a month under his “Mansion Fund”, which is an extremely vague description of how public money is being spent. Texas for Public Justice has since filed an ethics complaint requiring that all expenses under this account be identified. Perry would have voters believe that White would substantially increase taxes for Texans. In one of Perry’s campaign videos he accuses White of wanting to increase taxes for highways. However, in 2006 as the mayor of Houston, Bill White significantly improved the infrastructure of Houston without any tax increases. That same year he also lowered property taxes.
It seems that Rick Perry’s refusal to debate Bill White is nothing more than a tactic to keep him from publicly discussing issues. If he can subject Bill White to scrutiny, then he moves the public eye away from his less than stellar record. Texans deserve to hear a quality debate between the two men vying for the governor’s office, and it seems that Perry believes himself to be exempt from this part of the gubernatorial race. It is time for a fresh face in Austin.