We expect a high level of transparency from our politicians

The Nov. 2 gubernatorial election date is drawing near, but Republican Gov. Rick Perry and Democratic challenger Bill White, former mayor of Houston, have yet to participate in a formal debate. Perry is refusing to take part in the much-anticipated Oct. 19 event alongside White until the latter releases tax returns from all his years in public office.

Why such a stipulation? Perry said he would like White to “be honest with the people of Texas” before sharing the stage with the incumbent governor. Perry has already released his tax returns from 1987 to present.

It’s true that we have come to expect a high level of transparency from our politicians. However, the harm White has caused by withholding tax returns is eclipsed by the detriment Perry will inflict on the voting public should he fail to appear in October.

Without a moderated and public discussion between the two candidates, Texas voters, including thousands of college students, will be left in the dark. In order for the democratic process to operate at peak effectiveness, candidates like Perry need to actively participate. The voters’ ability to make a well-informed decision should outweigh Perry’s desire for complete fiscal transparency on White’s part.

A collection of editors from 10 college and university newspapers in Texas agree that voters would benefit from Perry’s participation in a public discussion. If Perry’s camp thinks he will lose something, anything, by participating in an event with White sans tax information, they’re forgetting who the real loser would be: the Texas voter.