This is one in a series of occasional stories about ethics and transparency in the part-time Texas Legislature.
Gov. Rick Perry and his wife, Anita, made a little more than $300,000 in 2011, getting a pay boost over the previous year thanks to his new state pension benefit and the sale of an interest in North Texas gas wells, tax records show.
The couple reported adjusted gross income of $312,597 and paid $76,000 in taxes. They gave $27,083 to charity: $25,000 to his mega church, Lake Hills Church in West Austin, and $2,000 to Denison Forum, a Christian conservative nonprofit. Perry's adjusted gross income in 2011 surpassed his 2010 income by about $95,000.
The figures come from the Perrys' 2011 tax return, which the governor’s office provided to The Texas Tribune last week. Perry filed an extension last year. So far the governor, lieutenant governor and three Texas legislators have publicly released tax returns to the Tribune, which has requested them from top legislative leaders and all state lawmakers.
Perry has regularly released his tax returns to the media since his first race for a full term as governor in 2002. He has provided returns stretching back to 1987. State disclosure laws do not require it, but candidates running for Texas governor have in recent years generally provided at least some of their federal tax returns. Perry took office in December 2000, about a month before his predecessor, George W. Bush, was sworn in as president.
Perry makes a $150,000 gross salary as governor. He also reported pre-tax earnings of $84,541 from his state pension, the subject of considerable controversy.
He is taking advantage of an unusually generous perk in the law, dating at least to 1991, that applies to veteran elected officials. It has allowed the longest-serving Texas governor to retire without ever leaving his job — to collect both a salary and a pension. Perry began drawing monthly pension payments in early 2011. Perry, who has applied several years of military service to his state pension, can retire again from the state when he leaves office and count additional years toward his annuity. A bill pending in the state House would eliminate the provision.
Perry’s office points out that he has met the legal requirements to take the pension and continues to pay into the retirement system.
The tax returns also show how much Perry made on the sale of a stake in MKS Natural Gas Company, started by his longtime friend Ric Williamson, a former state representative appointed by Perry to be chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission in 2004. Williamson died in 2007. Perry sold an interest in MKS in 2011, according to his personal financial statement filed last year.
Perry spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said the sale is reported as $30,782 in ordinary income on his tax return on a K1, a federal tax form used to report business income or losses, from the RP 2010 Management Trust.
The governor once made a small fortune in real estate, about $2 million in pre-tax profits, according to public records and news accounts, but he reports no direct property ownership on his latest personal financial statement.
Perry incurred major capital losses during the downturn in 2008, previous tax returns indicate. According to his latest return, Perry can still carry forward more than $500,000 of previous capital losses, deductions that can be used to offset future capital gains, said Houston accountant Bob Martin, who has analyzed the governor’s tax records and disclosure statements for the Tribune. Anita Perry reported $65,000 from her consulting work for Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, the same amount reported in previous tax years. The governor’s salary remained unchanged, too.
The Perrys reported adjusted gross income of $217,447 in 2010. Most of the increase in their take home pay can be attributed to Perry’s pension and the MKS sale, Martin said.