by Max Brantley
Interesting piece in Stephens Media on what 10 years has accomplished on three major legislative initiatives.
ARKids -- the health insurance program for kids. Success.
Welfare reform -- spending more now than then, but less in cash assistance.
Death penalty appeals -- the effort to speed the process doesn't seem to have had much effect.
UPDATE: One note. The Stephens story again mistakenly referred to the first general tax cut in Ark. history. It's repeated often because Mike Huckabee repeatedly claims the title -- erroneously -- for himself. Forget that it was a Jim Guy Tucker idea, introduced by Bobby Hogue, that Huckabee agreed to continue to support. On the jump, check a quick essay by Ernest Dumas on his recollection of Arkansas tax cut and increase history, particularly in the context of Mike Huckabee's claims, for a fuller account.
Oh, yes. Off the top of my head, Jeff Davis slashed taxes in his final term, which severely crippled the government of his successors. Ben Laney ended the state property tax altogether. His idea, a good one, was to leave this source of revenue to local governments. Dale Bumpers and Bill Clinton ended income taxes for hundreds of thousands of low-income taxpayers by repealing the tax obligations of those under certain income threshholds.
And what is a general tax cut? Could the capital gains tax cut in Huckabee's time be called general because it affected only certain people, primarily high-income ones? It affected fewer people than the low-income tax cuts of Bumpers and Clinton.
There were lots of tax cuts of a special nature that affected tens of thousands of people. For example, the circuit-breaker laws, started by Cal Ledbetter in the 70s to give property tax relief to the elderly.
And don't forget that the only significant general tax cut of the Huckabee years was Bobby Hogue's (actually, Jim Guy Tucker's) in Huck's first session. It was not his bill. He just eventually agreed to sign it when his went nowhere.
Huck's never identified these 94 tax cuts that he keeps talking about.
And, of course, he opposed the biggest tax cut of all, repeal of the sales tax on groceries. He was on record urging people to oppose it.
He also misstates what happened on the tax increases, claiming that the Supreme Court pretty much ordered one and the voters, not him, passed the highway tax program. The voters never voted on a highway tax. The legislature passed gasoline and diesel fuel taxes. As I recall, the diesel tax would only go into effect if the bonds passed. The issue on the ballot did not mention taxes. It mentioned bonds. The presumption was that voters knew that their vote carried with it the tax but I don't think it was on the ballot. The reason that it was not on the ballot that way was that lawmakers, the gov and the highway commission doubted it would pass if the tax was the ballot. And the game and fish/parks sales tax was his. He went up and down the Arkansas River in his bass boat campaigning for the tax. Now it was the voters, not him.
The Supreme Court did not order a tax increase; neither did it order higher spending on education. It ordered the state to provide an adequate school program and that it be available equally to all children. In Texas, they didn't raise taxes to do that, they took from the rich and gave to the poor. It was Huck's judgment and the legislature's that they needed to raise taxes to do it.