Huckabee's record on taxes
"Governor Huckabee is a fiscal conservative who cut taxes almost 100 times in the state of Arkansas."
--Mike Huckabee for President website.
When Mike Huckabee shot to the head of the pack in Iowa, his Republican rivals piled on to him for his record as governor of Arkansas. Mitt Romney has been particularly aggressive, accusing Huckabee of being "liberal" on taxes and spending. The conservative Club for Growth has said that it is "hard to take Huckabee seriously" because of his economic record in Arkansas.
So what is the truth? Did Huckabee cut more taxes than he raised during his ten years as governor--or was it the other way round?
Huckabee won plaudits from conservatives by pushing a $90 million tax cut package through the Arkansas legislature in 1997, soon after he became governor. Largely on the strength of that tax cut, the Cato Institute awarded Huckabee a B rating in 1998, listing him as one of the country's "top ten tax cutters." But it was largely downhill from there. He was awarded a C in 2000 and 2002, a D in 2004, and an F in 2006. "Mike Huckabee of Arkansas went from being one of the best governors in America to one of the worst," the Institute declared. "The main reason for the drop was his insistence on raising taxes at almost every turn throughout his final term."
According to the Tax Foundation, the state and local tax burden on the average Arkansan increased from 10.1 per cent to 11.3 per cent under Huckabee. When he came into office in 1996, Arkansas ranked 30th in the nation as the state with the highest taxes. When he left at the beginning of this year, it had risen to 13th.
Overall tax revenues in Arkansas rose by some $500 million under Huckabee, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. In Huckabee's defense, $400 million of this increased revenue went to pay for improvements in the state's educational system mandated in 2002 by the Arkansas Supreme Court, to correct inequalities in education spending. The biggest tax increases came in 2003 and 2004, after the Supreme Court decision.
So what about all those tax cuts that Huckabee boasts about?
The Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration has confirmed that there were 90 tax cuts in the period 1995 to 2005, reducing revenues by $378 million. But many of these tax cuts were very narrowly tailored. A list assembled by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette included the following:
Offsetting these tax cuts were at least 21 tax increases, including repeated tax hikes on tobacco, alcohol, increases in the sales tax, and a 3 per cent "income tax surcharge." The tax hikes brought in a total of $883 million between 1995 and 2003.
The Pinocchio Test
Huckabee often talks about the "nearly 100 tax cuts" that he helped to implement in Arkansas, however trivial. He conveniently forgets about the tax hikes, or uses euphemisms to disguise them. Asked about a tax on nursing home beds by Chris Wallace of Fox News, he said it was not a tax. It was a "quality assurance fee."
Two Pinocchios for exaggeration.
| January 2, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: 2 Pinocchios, Candidate Record, Candidate Watch, Economy
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