September 16, 2010
By R.G. RATCLIFFE
THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE
AUSTIN — Democrat Bill White on Tuesday refused to meet Gov. Rick Perry's debate conditions, creating the very real possibility that there will be no general election gubernatorial debate for the first time since 1990.
Perry has given White until midnight tonight to release his personal income tax returns for three years in the 1990s or else there will be no debate. White paid no personal income taxes in 1995 because he was starting a business and had no taxable income, but Perry insinuates White is trying to hide something.
White said Perry is using the income tax demand as an excuse to avoid a public discussion of the state's $18 billion budget shortfall. White noted that Perry also is avoiding newspaper editorial board meetings.
Southern Methodist University political scientist Cal Jillson said White "made a mistake" by not releasing his tax returns several weeks ago to take away Perry's cover. But Jillson said it is equally apparent that Perry does not want to risk his front-runner status in a debate with the former Houston mayor.
"I'd be surprised if either one of them blinked," Jillson said
He said Perry risks giving White stature by appearing with him in a debate and there also is the possibility that Perry would make a mistake that could haunt him. Jillson said the Republican governor risks little voter blowback if he does not debate.
"Voters do expect it. Some will be disappointed if it doesn't happen. Few will vote (based) on the issue," Jillson said.
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