Republican gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson is already attacking Mike Beebe's new campaign advertisement, which hit the airwaves this morning.
Hutchinson challenged Beebe’s promise in the ad to eliminate the sales tax on groceries.
"Mike Beebe is a classic tax-and-spend politician trying to re-invent himself as a tax-cutter during an election year, which simply strains all credibility," Hutchinson said in a press release. "Never mind that he voted for every tax hike that came down the pike during his years in the state Senate, Mr. Beebe actually helped kill an effort to eliminate the grocery tax just a few years ago. That’s not going to wash with Arkansas voters, who know a flip-flop when they see one"
Full press release after the jump.
UPDATE: Beebe's campaign responds and cites several "falsehoods" in Hutchinson's press release.
"Hutchinson should check his facts," said Beebe's spokesman, Zac Wright. "This is another example of him not telling the truth. Mike Beebe helped pass a bill in the Senate to eliminate the grocery tax. But I wouldn't expect a Washington lobbyist to be that aware of Arkansas history."
Wright added that Beebe voted in 1999 for Senate Bill 6, which was a bill to eliminate the sales tax on groceries. It passed the Senate but died in the House.
He also cited an AP article from January in which Beebe said, "I believe that the sales tax on food, which is the most regressive tax, must be phased out." The same article said, "In an interview afterward, Hutchinson said eliminating the food tax is not part of his tax proposals."
"Asa Hutchinson said eliminating the food tax was not part of his tax proposals," Wright said. "Now he claims it is. That's not straight talk. That's not leadership. That's the kind of double-talking we expect from a Washington lobbyist, just like he did on the minimum wage. If you take out the fact that Hutchinson's press release is wrong on the facts and wrong on his own record, Asa Hutchinson would almost seem believable."
Hutchinson: Why the Election-Year Flip Flop On Grocery Tax Repeal?
Attorney General ‘Lacks Credibility’ On Taxes, Says GOP Candidate
Little Rock – Asa Hutchinson today questioned the credibility of Attorney General Mike Beebe’s claim in a new television ad launched this week that he would eliminate the sales tax on groceries in Arkansas.
Hutchinson pointed out that, despite paying lip service to cutting the grocery tax during his 20 years in the state Senate, Beebe never did show the leadership or take the action necessary to get it done.
Even more significant, Beebe actually fought efforts to eliminate this very tax just a few years ago.
Hutchinson pointed to a 2002 ballot proposal that Attorney General Beebe publicly opposed (“Food Tax Question Pending Before High Court,” Associated Press, October 10, 2002) and asked why Beebe opposed the repeal when it came before the people and he had a chance to eliminate it.
“Mike Beebe is a classic tax-and-spend politician trying to re-invent himself as a tax-cutter during an election year, which simply strains all credibility,” Hutchinson said. “Never mind that he voted for every tax hike that came down the pike during his years in the state Senate, Mr. Beebe actually helped kill an effort to eliminate the grocery tax just a few years ago. That’s not going to wash with Arkansas voters, who know a flip-flop when they see one”
Hutchinson pointed out the stark and heavily documented differences between himself and Mike Beebe when it comes to the issue of taxes. Hutchinson has a career record of voting to reduce taxes as a way to spur economic growth – having voted for the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 and the 2001 Economic Growth and Tax Relief Act. Mike Beebe, on the other hand called the 2001 tax cuts “irresponsible.” (“Price To Pay Later, Beebe Predicts Of GOP Tax Cuts, Spending Habit,” Arkansas Democrat Gazette, 10/8/2004)
In July, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette chronicled the tax records of the two candidates, which showed Hutchinson’s consistent support for tax reform and relief throughout his time in Congress and Beebe’s support for billions of dollars of tax increases as a member of the Arkansas Senate. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 23, 2006)
“Over a two decade career in the state Senate, Mike Beebe continuously and repeatedly raised taxes on Arkansans, with the end result that Arkansas has one of the highest tax burdens in the nation,” Hutchinson said. “But now that he’s running for Governor, he claims to have discovered the virtues of cutting taxes. We’re glad he’s come around to our way of thinking, but you have to wonder whether somebody can change so dramatically so quickly. After 20 years of claiming tax increases are necessary, isn’t it a bit of a stretch to think he’s suddenly come around to a new way of thinking?”
Hutchinson, on the other hand, has a clear record of voting repeatedly to reduce taxes, and has made tax reform a major component of his jobs growth plan for Arkansas.
Early in his campaign, he called for requiring a supermajority vote before the Legislature can raise the state sales tax again. “Unsurprisingly,” Hutchinson said, “Mike Beebe opposes this reform – not exactly the stance of a committed tax cutter."
Hutchinson has also argued that, with the state facing a projected budget surplus of over $700 million, at least half the surplus should be dedicated to tax relief.
Specifically, he has called for eliminating the state sales tax on groceries and the energy sales tax for manufacturers, as well as some tax relief for small businesses.
“I’m not a new convert to cutting taxes,” Hutchinson said. “Arkansans know that if I am elected Governor, I will make tax reform a priority to put more money in the hands of Arkansas families and to drive jobs growth in our state. I have credibility and a clear record to back up my promises. I haven’t spent my career in public service acting one way, and then changing my tune during a campaign year. Folks know that they’ll get straight talk and clear leadership from me.”
Hutchinson, a native of Gravette, is a former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, Member of Congress representing the state's Third District, head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Undersecretary of Homeland Security, where he oversaw border and transportation security. Hutchinson currently serves as CEO of the Hutchinson Group, a Little Rock consulting firm.