In the New York Times today, Leslie Wayne has an article outlining the attacks against Huckabee from groups like Club for Growth. Ms. Wayne points out that in many cases, Huckabee was facing critical budget shortfalls and had wide bi-partisan support in responding to the crises:
As Mike Huckabee rises in the Republican presidential polls, fiscal conservatives have been raising alarms about a series of tax increases he spearheaded while governor of Arkansas - new taxes on gasoline, nursing home beds and even pet groomers.Read the whole article...
The Club for Growth, a politically influential anti-tax group, has dubbed Huckabee Tax Hike Mike and poured money into anti-Huckabee advertisements that were broadcast in early-nominating states, with more on the way. Huckabee "spends money like a drunken sailor," according to the group's news releases, and it has sprinkled YouTube and the airways with videos that mock him and his policies.
But the record offers a more complex and nuanced picture. While taxes did rise in the 10 years that Huckabee was governor, the portrayal of him as a wild-eyed spendthrift is hardly apt. For the most part, Huckabee's tax initiatives had wide bipartisan support, with the small number of Republicans in the overwhelmingly Democratic state Legislature voting for the tax increases and many maintaining that the state was better for them.
In addition, when Huckabee left office in January, he had turned a $200 million budget shortfall into an $844 million surplus.
The biggest increase under Huckabee was mandated by the Arkansas Supreme Court, which in 2002 ruled that the state's school financing procedure was unconstitutional and ordered a more equitable plan - which led to $400 million in new taxes.
Both Democratic and Republican politicians and political observers say the Legislature had little choice but to raise taxes from 2002 to 2004 given the fiscal challenges facing Arkansas.
"We had our backs against the wall; we had no choice," said state Sen. Bobby Glover, a Democrat who has been in the Legislature off and on since 1973. "Our only other choice was to take more from prisons and heath care and other agencies."
In the end, the $400 million tax increase package was passed by an overwhelming majority, with Republican legislators taking the lead in pushing for it along with Democrats.
The Club for Growth is circulating a video of Huckabee speaking to the Legislature and going through a litany of all the taxes he could support, leaving the impression that there is no tax he would not embrace.
But the purpose of Huckabee's address was specific: Arkansas was facing a multimillion-dollar budget shortfall and Huckabee was pleading for a tax increase to cover it - any tax, and listing all the possibilities.