Taxes for Texas? Rick Perry, Bill White Battle in Texas Governor's Race

Is Bill White, the Democratic candidate for Texas governor, a tax-and-spend liberal? That is what this election boils down to when all the politicking is set aside.

Texas Governor Rick Perry is running for an unprecedented third term. Though Perry has endorsed the idea of Tea Parties, the state is currently facing a revenue shortfall of $11-20 billion in an $182.5 billion state budget. This means, of course, talk of whether to cut spending or increase taxes, or both.

Some of the problem in Texas lies in the way school taxes are collected. In 2003, Perry and others pushed for a decrease in state school taxes, with the difference to be made up in increased business taxes. With the business downturn, that bit of revenue is considerably less than school tax dollars were. The state is currently scrambling to raise money via increased tuition to the state colleges, and increased fees.

Of course, taxes have always been a major issue in the Texas governor's race. Past governors have lost elections over increasing taxes, and candidates have thrown away what seemed to be promising candidacies because they either said they favored raising taxes or cutting services drastically. Bill White seems to be getting ready to do himself in, as the shortfall noted above has sparked fears of drastic cuts in services or drastic raising of taxes.

Texas has no income tax and generates most of its "tax" revenue via a sales tax, currently 6.25% on goods and services. Cities impose typically an additional 2% on top of the state rate for a total of 8.25%. There are some 100 things sold in Texas that are exempt from the sales tax. But raising the sales tax rate is fraught with danger for any candidate.

As the incumbent, Perry has refused to debate White. There are a few reasons for this: strategically, there is no reason for a leader to debate the fellow trying to catch up; Perry has enough problems in his past to be leery of a debate, such as his roundly criticized executive order requiring teenage girls to be vaccinated against STDs; and Bill White can be an eloquent speaker. Otherwise, it would seem like a no-brainer to have the debate if Perry can nail White on increasing taxes.