The Brief: Top Texas News for Oct. 20, 2011

Texas Governor at the Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire on October 11, 2011.
Texas Governor at the Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire on October 11, 2011.

The Big Conversation:

Has Rick Perry found his own “9-9-9”? Tune in to his economic speech next week to find out!

At the Western Republican Leadership Conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Perry leaked a major piece of his economic policy initiative, which he planes to unveil in a speech on October 25.

And what will he proposing in that speech? As the Tribune’s Jay Root reports, Perry told the crowd, “It starts with… scrapping the three million words of the current tax code, starting over with something simple: a flat tax.”

A flat tax, as opposed to graduated income rates that require wealthy Americans to pay more, is popular with many Tea Party conservatives. Herman Cain’s ubiquitous — and increasingly derided — “9-9-9” plan, a combination of a national sales tax and a flat tax on businesses and individuals, has led to an unlikely surge in the polls.

At CNN’s GOP debate earlier this week, Perry began to draw a contrast with Cain’s plan. Perry said that voters are “not interested in 9-9-9. What they're interested in is flatter and fairer.”

A flat tax was a major plank of publisher Steve Forbes’ platform during his presidential runs in 1996 and 2000. He called for, as the Wall Street Journal explains,  “a $36,000 exemption for a family of four and a 17% flat rate on income above that level. It also would have eliminated taxes on personal savings and capital gains in order to encourage investment.”

Now Forbes is advising Perry, a more formidable candidate, and he says he is very excited about the renewed prospects of a flat tax. Speaking to the WSJ, Forbes said, “What Perry is proposing is a radical simplification of the income tax code….It’s finally coming to pass.”

Of course, that will depend on Perry’s ability to sell it. And his predilection for verbal gaffes and uninspiring debate performances early in the campaign caused some unease. But, after his feisty appearance in the more recent debate, as Root reports, Perry is seeming “like his old brash self — confident and energized.”

“I want to make the Tax Code so simple that even Timothy Geithner can file his taxes on time,” Perry told the crowd on Wednesday.  If that’s so, Tuesday’s speech in South Carolina will be a key step.

Culled:

  • According to an Austin American-Statesman report, the State Bar of Texas has begun an investigation into the actions taken by trial prosecutors in the 1987 wrongful conviction of Michael Morton, who was recently released after 25 years in prison for the murder of his wife. Ken Anderson, the former district attorney who prosecuted Morton and allegedly hid evidence favorable to him, does not seem eager to cooperate. He has filed a motion to quash a subpoena forcing him to testify under oath.
  • The State Board of Education may try to modify the STAAR tests to allay school districts’ concerns that they're losing local control of grading, the Tribune’s Morgan Smith reports. During the legislative session, school superintendents wondered — a bit hopefully — if budget cuts would prevent the roll-out of the state's rigid new standardized exams. No such luck. The first Texas ninth graders to take the new end-of-course exams will do so this spring.
  • It was hard not to notice the tension between Mitt Romney  and Rick Perry at Tuesday’s debate. If a web video attacking Romney that was released by the Perry camp this morning is any indication, it’s likely that will only get worse:

“I’m all in with his candidacy. Our children are all in. Our four dogs are all in.” — Anita Perry addressed a gathering of the Republican Women of Las Vegas.

Must-Read:

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