Texas's millionaire Republican gubernatorial nominee Clayton Williams said he paid no income taxes in 1986 because of the state's poor economy -- creating yet another controversy in the tight race.
Williams, who has refused repeated calls by his opponent, Democrat Ann Richards, to release his income tax returns, made the disclosure Friday during a whistle-stop train trip through central Texas. "Yes, I've paid lots of income tax -- lots, lots," he said in response to a reporter's question. "I'll tell you when I didn't pay any income tax was 1986, when our whole economy collapsed."
Richards, at a campaign rally Friday night at a Houston union hall, chided Williams: "He said it was a bad year. It was a bad year for a lot of Texans in 1986. I paid my income tax in 1986. How about you?"
Richards's 1986 return showed she paid $47,343 in income taxes on income of $154,000. That included her $68,000 state salary, capital gains, $14,000 in interest income and a divorce settlement, according to campaign spokesman Bill Cryer.
Richards, the state treasurer, said Williams's use of "loopholes" to avoid paying income taxes in 1986 illustrated a big difference between them. "Our opposition does not represent nor can he understand what it is like to be among the working people of this state, who pay their income tax, meet their payrolls, work from paycheck to paycheck, take care of their families and scrimp and save to send their kids to college," she said.
The Richards campaign was on the radio yesterday with a commercial reminding voters that Williams, who spent $8 million of his money on his campaign, found a way not to pay taxes in 1986.
Williams campaign spokesman Gordon Hensley said yesterday that Williams, a Midland businessman with a net worth of about $116 million, and his companies "have paid millions of dollars in taxes and have complied with every federal and state tax and campaign financial disclosure law." He took a swing at Richards, charging, "If she is elected, the taxpayers will be rolled."