No taxable income? No problem. Or is it?

SMU Political Science Professor Cal Jillson talks about the race for Texas governor.

Austin Bureau

AUSTIN — When millionaire oilman Clayton Williams said he hadn't paid federal income taxes one year, it helped make Ann Richards governor.

Democrat Bill White's disclosure that he didn't have taxable income in 1995 hasn't sparked the same explosion. Circumstances, timing and candidates differ, but the issue isn't helping his battle against Gov. Rick Perry.

The GOP incumbent has made a crusade of demanding that White release his income tax returns for the years he served as deputy energy secretary and as state Democratic Party chairman, refusing to debate White because he hasn't done so.

"Absent those tax returns, Perry can say pretty much anything he wants in political terms, and he's taking the opportunity to do that," said SMU political scientist Cal Jillson. "I think on the facts, Bill wins. On the politics, perhaps Perry wins, because he plants those seeds of doubt."

A recap: White left as deputy energy secretary in 1995 and started a venture capital business looking at oil and gas investments, according to his campaign. Spokeswoman Katy Bacon wouldn't release his tax return but said he paid $27,668 in federal income taxes, including withholding, estimated tax payments and an overpayment. Because of businesses losses, exemptions and deductions, he had no taxable income. He owed $3,482 in household employment taxes for his housekeeper. He got a refund of $24,186, she said. . . 

Jillson said White should have released the returns months ago. "Bill White chooses not to do that, and gives as his reason the principle of the matter," Jillson said. "But principle is some dead weight on your pockets when you're drowning."

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