Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Candidates - Huckabee's economic record is poor

Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas has a record showing his policy values. What does it show us? Huckabee raises taxes and raises spending. Year after year. The Club for Growth gives the years, particular taxes, programs and numbers. Taxes
By the end of his ten-year tenure, Governor Huckabee was responsible for a 37% higher sales tax in Arkansas, 16% higher motor fuel taxes, and 103% higher cigarette taxes according to Americans for Tax Reform (01/07/07), garnering a lifetime grade of D from the free-market Cato Institute. While he is on record supporting making the Bush tax cuts permanent, he joined Democrats in criticizing the Republican Party for tilting its tax policies "toward the people at the top end of the economic scale" (Washington Examiner 09/13/06), even though objective evidence demonstrates that the Bush tax cuts have actually shifted the tax burden to higher income taxpayers. Finally, Governor Huckabee opposed further tax cuts at a 2005 gathering of Iowa conservatives (AP 09/17/05). On January 28, 2007, Governor Huckabee refused to pledge not to raise taxes if elected President, first on Meet the Press and then at the National Review Conservative Summit. The evidence suggests that his commitment to protecting taxpayers evidenced in his early gubernatorial years may be a thing of the past.
Under Governor Huckabee's watch, state spending increased a whopping 65.3% from 1996 to 2004, three times the rate of inflation (Americans for Tax Reform 01/07/07). The number of state government workers rose 20% during his tenure (Arkansas Leader 04/15/06), and the state's general obligation debt shot up by almost $1 billion, according to Americans for Tax Reform. The massive increase in government spending is due in part to the number of new programs and expansion of already existing programs initiated by Governor Huckabee, including ARKids First, a multimillion-dollar government program to provide health coverage for thousands of Arkansas' children (Arkansas News Bureau 04/13/06).
Trade Governor Huckabee's record on trade is limited, but positive. In 2003, he pushed for free trade with Mexico, calling for a "strong market of the Americas" and supporting NAFTA (AP 10/03/03). In 2006, he signed an agreement between Arkansas and a South Korea trade group, calling for increased commerce between the southern state and South Korea (AP 06/23/06). Entitlement Reform
In 2005, Governor Huckabee defended President Bush's proposal for personal Social Security accounts. Unfortunately, however, Governor Huckabee qualified his support, saying, "I don't think anyone pretends it solves the long-term issue of solvency. It's trying to address methods to improve the system and broaden the base of how it is funded" (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette 02/04/05). More disturbing is Governor Huckabee's support for the 2003 Republican-initiated Medicare prescription drug plan, a huge unfunded liability shouldered by taxpayers across America (HumanEvents.com 02/28/06). The specific details of his position on Social Security reform and his positions on other entitlement programs remain unclear.
Governor Huckabee has consistently supported and initiated measures that increase government's interference in markets, thereby impeding economic growth. He told the Washington Times he supports "empowering people to make their own decisions," but many of his key proposals have done just the opposite (Washington Times 03/01/05).
School Choice
Governor Huckabee's record on school choice is mixed. On the one hand, he fought hard to protect the rights of parents to home school their children and was a vocal proponent of charter schools (Arkansas Time 09/22/05). In 1997, he supported a proposal that would expand charter school eligibility to include public and private universities, governmental agencies, and nonprofit organizations (AP 02/12/97). He signed legislation in 1999 that allowed for as many as 12 charter schools to be established in Arkansas, an important achievement given the state's onerous laws governing charter schools (Time 07/10/00). On the other hand, Governor Huckabee is on record opposing the most important element of genuine school choice-voucher programs that allow poor students in failing public schools to attend private schools and inject much needed competition into a decrepit public education system-because of a concern about government control of parochial schools (Arkansas Times 09/22/05). He also called No Child Left Behind "the greatest education reform effort by the federal government in my lifetime," (Washington Times 03/01/05) a program that stripped schools of local control and increased federal spending on education by 48% over three years (Heritage.org 11/09/06).
Political Free Speech
Governor Huckabee is on record criticizing the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform, though the majority of his criticism has focused on discriminatory measures that allows senators to transfer money from Senate committees to presidential runs, but deny governors the same freedom to move state funds into federal accounts. While he called for less restrictions and more disclosure regarding campaign contributions (The Hill 11/29/06) and okayed unlimited soft money provided full disclosure (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette 03/10/00), Governor Huckabee is also on record favoring limiting individual, PAC, corporate, and political party contributions to state candidates (votesmart.org 2002).
A mixed record. Tort Reform
In his 2003 State of the State speech, Governor Huckabee called for "action immediately to limit the abuse of malpractice litigation" (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette 01/15/03) and followed up a year later, signing the Civil Justice Reform Act which set a $1 million limit on punitive damages in civil cases in Arkansas. He rightly hailed the measure as an important step towards achieving "affordable health care and help[ing] the state attract and keep businesses" (AP 04/20/04).
It would be hard for me to support a tax and spender like Huckabee.

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