Tuesday, March 01, 2011

EDITORIAL >> He can’t stop lying

He can’t stop. No sooner had the type been set than this comes: Mike Huckabee lies about his tax record on the Fox News show hosted by his colleague Chris Wallace. 

It came about this way. Wallace was interviewing the former governor about his expected race for president in 2012. He observed that Huckabee would have to deal with “gotcha stories” in the media, including the charge that he raised taxes as governor. He then threw three tax increases on the screen, obviously by pre-arrangement with Huckabee. They were the 1999 income tax surcharge, the 2003 sales tax of 7/8ths of a percent and the one-eighth percent sales tax adopted in 1998. 

Huckabee’s quick explanations: The Arkansas Supreme Court made him raise the sales tax in 2003 (not true; it simply said the state had to provide a suitable education for children). The voters approved the smaller sales tax (true, but at his urging). And he opposed the income tax increase and didn’t sign it. 

The last is simply a lie, but he keeps repeating it. That is because millions of people see his denial (unchallenged by his host, of course) but only hundreds ever see the efforts to correct it. 

Here is the record: Huckabee called a special legislative session in May 2003 because state revenues were declining and the spending cuts that would be necessary to keep the budget balanced would have to be too severe. When he addressed the legislature, he urged them to raise taxes to protect state services and he said he would sign any tax measure the legislature passed. He specifically mentioned a cigarette tax increase and a surcharge on individual and corporate income taxes. The legislature passed both those tax increases and he had them brought to his desk the same day and signed them into law. He thanked legislators for their leadership. 

Only five years later, when he was running for president, did he claim that he had opposed the income tax increase and had not signed it into law. That is just flatly not true.

Wallace did not mention the third sales tax increase, a half-cent in 1999, a 2 percent tax on chewing tobacco, cigars, package tobacco, cigarette papers and snuff in 1997, a cigarette tax increase in 1997, still another tax increase on cigarettes and tobacco in 1997, a cigarette tax increase of 25 cents a pack in 2003, a beer tax of 3 percent in 2003, revival of a mixed-drink tax in 2005, a gasoline tax increase of 3 cents a gallon and a diesel tax increase of 4 cents a gallon in 1999 (he would claim during the 2008 presidential campaign that the voters, not he, approved those taxes but that was not true either), and an increase in the driver’s license by $6 a person in 2001. He signed them all.