Texas lawmakers should tell more on financial disclosure forms

Posted Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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If you look at Gov. Rick Perry's state financial disclosure form, it says he's employed by the state of Texas. Same thing for Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

Well, la-di-da. Didn't we already know that?

But those disclosure forms don't require any income reporting, even though state salaries are a matter of public record.

It can't be emphasized enough that taxpayers learned they are footing Perry's double-dipping in collecting a monthly retirement annuity as well as his annual salary of almost $133,000 only because he had to report those sources of income, along with amounts, on federal documents when he ran for president in 2011.

The Texas Tribune has posted comparisons that illustrate clearly how deficient Texas' forms are at informing the public (bit.ly/XylrmG).

For instance, elected officials have to indicate how many shares they hold in companies but only within broad ranges, such as "5,000 to 9,999," with nothing about their value. Interest and dividend income is reported in similarly vague categories: A lawmaker who reports "more than $25,000" could be making millions, but who's to know?

It took Dewhurst's unsuccessful run for U.S. Senate -- and the required federal disclosures -- to reveal that his shares in Falcon Seaboard Diversified, a privately owned energy and investment company he founded, are worth more than $50 million, as is his blind trust.

The Tribune reported that state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, is preparing a bill that would require more disclosure about pension incomes, nonoccupational revenue and finances of spouses and dependent children. She also wants to put forms online, something lawmakers have resisted.

Rep. Chris Turner, R-Grand Prairie, already has filed HB 413, which would bar elected officials from simultaneously collecting a state salary and a pension resulting from that service.

That would be preferable. But if the Legislature doesn't outlaw the practice, the public is at least entitled to know who's doing it, in case voters want to unelect any elected officials who are overindulging at the public trough.

SB 178 and HB 524, by Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, and Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, call for transparency about legislators' contracts with government entities.

Lawmakers should remember that just because they (aside from the governor) are only required to show up in Austin every other year doesn't mean their financial ties aren't of public concern.

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