Mike Huckabee is the Republican in the presidential race who spends the most time talking about middle Americans—their health care needs, their lack of job security, the crumminess of the schools that educate their children, etc. His attention to these seemingly left-of-center issues—and the lengths to which he went to act on them as governor of Arkansas—has gotten him branded as an irresponsible tax-and-spender by some parts of the GOP establishment. Bob Novak, for example, called him a member of the “Christian left.”
So with the help of the magnificent FactCheck.org, let’s take a look at Huckabee’s financial record.
Huckabee claims to have cut taxes “almost 94 times” while Governor. (An odd construction, but whatever.) He adds that he saved “the people of Arkansas almost $380 million.” That’s true. Huckabee cut taxes 90 times from 1997 to 2005, reducing state revenues by $378 million.
But Huckabee also presided over 21 tax increases, none of which he mentions on the stump. And those tax increases totaled much more than $378 million. According to the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, the “net tax increase under Huckabee’s tenure was an estimated $505.1 million,” adjusted for inflation.
Spending did go up under the Huckabee regime—the state budget was $10.4 billion in his first year as Governor (again, adjusted for inflation), while it was $15.6 billion in 2006. So he is, technically, a tax-and-spender. But Huckabee balanced the Arkansas state budget every year he was governor (balancing the budget is a requirement under Arkansas state law) and in the end, Huckabee had a positive effect on the state ledger: He faced a $200 million deficit in 2002, but ended his term with a $844.5 million surplus. That’s a billion dollar turnaround, taxing-and-spending be damned.
A bit more, after the jump.
The DNC is joining the GOP chorus and slamming Huckabee for being a tax-and-spend politician. I think that’s just lame. Democrats support the sort of fiscal responsibility that Huckabee was able to demonstrate: he spent on the right things (mostly), taxed when necessary, cut taxes when possible, and managed the budget in a way that left the state’s finances better off. I know the Democrats aren’t going to praise a Republican, but at least they can withhold their fire on a pol with such a respectable record.
Especially here: “As Governor, Huckabee implemented an increase on everything from cigarettes, to gasoline and even on driver’s licenses,” a DNC spokesperson said. Democrats support taxes on cigarettes and gasoline! Can it, DNC!
Oh, and PS — Huck’s not free from mistakes. Not at all.
Update: Huckabee is calling for the president to be investigated for his role in the Plame case, in light of Scott McClellan’s revelations.