The Brief: Texas Political News for Dec. 5, 2013

The Big Conversation

Both Wendy Davis and Greg Abbott have shared tax returns for the last three years — but they seem to be the exception and not the rule when it comes to candidates disclosing what they make and what they pay in taxes.

A Texas Tribune report out today finds that most statewide candidates were unwilling, when asked, to share their tax returns. As Ryan Murphy and Alexa Ura write, "Of the 48 statewide candidates across four parties who have filed for or say they are running for major statewide office — governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller, land commissioner, agriculture commissioner and railroad commissioner — 10 released their last three tax returns at the Tribune's request."

That's a 21 percent positive response rate. Candidates gave many different reasons for not releasing their returns, with one saying it was a private and personal matter (gubernatorial candidate Tom Pauken) and another worried it wouldn't be fair "to set a new standard" for doing something that is not required by law (railroad commissioner candidate Wayne Christian).

It's true that nothing legally requires such disclosure, but it's a practice that has become more common in Texas, especially among candidates for governor. And Southern Methodist University professor Cal Jillson tells the Tribune that tax returns might be more valuable to the voters than the legally required campaign finance filings with the Texas Ethics Commission, which he likened to “Swiss cheese reporting requirements.”

Culled

•    Dewhurst Tasks Lawmakers With Border Security Efforts (The Texas Tribune): "Dewhurst said he would push to add $60 million worth of border enforcement per year until the border is secure. He said that funding could be approved before the end of the year and that he has called on Gov. Rick Perry and House Speaker Joe Straus to aid with the effort."

•    State police to halt use of traffic checkpoints (Houston Chronicle): "The Texas Department of Public Safety will refrain from using traffic checkpoints following intense backlash after state police temporarily set up roadside stops in the Rio Grande Valley earlier this year."

•    Dallas Fed: Retail, energy help keep regional economy humming (Austin American-Statesman): "A rise in manufacturing activity, the consistent strength of the energy sector and an uptick in retail sales helped sustain regional economic growth and hiring over the past six weeks, according to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas."

•    Turner To Renew Battle Against College Grade Inflation (The Texas Tribune): "State Rep. Scott Turner, R-Frisco, said on Wednesday that he is preparing to revive a push to curb grade inflation at Texas public colleges and universities in the next legislative session."

•    Opiela Touts Record Fighting for Rural Communities (The Texas Tribune): "In a new video ad, agriculture commissioner candidate Eric Opiela highlights an episode in his hometown of Karnes City, where he helped defeat efforts by an oil and gas company to drill an injection well next to a daycare center. The ad is also careful to note that Opiela is a proponent of the oil and gas industry in Texas."

Quote to Note: “He always had a powerful story to tell. We just had him all hurt and bunged up when we got him the first time.” — Katon Dawson, chairman of Rick Perry's 2012 South Carolina campaign, on why he might do better in a second try for president

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