Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White — after weeks of nagging from Republican Gov. Rick Perry — released his personal income tax returns dating back to 2004.
That done, he says Perry should agree to a debate before the election in November.
White's tax returns and personal financial statements are posted on his website, including personal income tax returns from 2004 to the present, and personal financial disclosures, filed variously with the City of Houston, the federal government and the state government from 2003 to now. His campaign also posted a side-by side of his and the governor's financial disclosures, making the argument that the challenger's finances are more transparent than the incumbent's — that voters know more about White's personal interests than they do of the governor's.
Perry's campaign has been pestering White daily to release his tax returns, and until now, the former Houston mayor has ignored him. The governor also refused to debate until and unless White released the documents. White, meanwhile, has accepted at least four requests for debates from various organizations. Now that the returns are posted on the web, White has renewed his call for debates before the election.
The release begs the question: If White was going to make the documents public, why let Perry make hay for so long over his failure to do so? Why wait?
"Perry has been hunting for an excuse not to avoid debating and having to defend his record and we felt it was time for him to stop the excuses and face the state," said Katy Bacon, a spokeswoman for White. "And so, Bill and Andrea are releasing their tax returns."
She said the delay was due, in part, to the campaign's preparation of documents comparing White's disclosures with Perry's. "The guide kind of boils things down," she said. It also gives the challenger a chance to put the numbers in the context that suits him best.
The Whites reported total income of $1.1 million in 2004, $4.7 million in 2005, $1.9 million in 2006, $2.3 million in 2007, $1.4 million in 2008, and $712,684 in 2009.
They paid taxes of $204,608 in 2004, $1.6 million in 2005, $384,386 in 2006, $498,933 in 2007, $208,077 in 2008, and $178,986 in 2009.
The Perry campaign — surprise! — was less than impressed. Their statement, from spokesman Mark Miner:
“Bill White’s decision to release five years of tax returns today is a good first step towards coming clean with the public regarding the sources of his personal fortune. However, by withholding tax returns for his years in public service dating back to the 1990s, Bill White has not matched Governor Perry’s level of transparency. Questions remain concerning income Bill White received while Deputy Secretary of Energy under President Clinton and as Chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, and how he has profited from those positions... Governor Perry looks forward to debating Bill White when he fully comes clean in releasing his tax returns for his years in public service, including the years he served under President Clinton developing energy policy that he has profited from.”
Perry's camp had previously asked for White's returns during the time he was in office. Now they're reaching back. UPDATE: Perry's folks say they've asked for all of his returns for the time he's been in public service, including as a federal appointee. They want more returns, based on that, and say they've been consistent about it.