At this point in the governor’s race, Democratic nominee Mike Beebe’s campaign strategy is to portray himself as a conservative advocate for Arkansas and never take a substantive position on any issue. He has taken one position -— and then another position — on many issues ranging from protecting property rights, protecting freedom of information, and growing the state’s economy through tax reform.
Being John Kerry-esque, Mike Beebe has taken every side to every issue in an effort to be a one–size-fits-all candidate. However, his recent political reinvention doesn’t change his governing philosophies revealed in the Arkansas Senate over a 20-year period.
History teaches us all lessons about governing and those individuals who are elected to govern. Harry Truman once stated, “The only thing new in this world is the history that you don’t know.”
For example, the reinvented Mike Beebe says he is opposed to raising taxes and would be in favor of phasing out the sales tax on groceries if state revenues are adequate. Adequate? Just this past week, according to state budget officials, Arkansas’ projected surplus for fiscal year 2006 is just over $300 million. If that is not adequate, what is? History tells us that Beebe’s position on removing the food tax is nothing more than an empty promise formulated by a politician with a legislative record of raising taxes at every possible opportunity.
Mike Beebe’s voting record shows that he has supported raising taxes on hunting and fishing licenses, motor fuels, soft drinks, cigarettes, and bingo operations — just to name a few. He has voted for millions of dollars in sales tax increases, and during his campaign kick-off, he proposed raising the state’s property tax to fund education.
In total, Mike Beebe supported over $10 billion in tax increases during his tenure in the Arkansas Senate.
According to a recent report by a non-partisan organization, the Tax Foundation, Arkansas has one of the 10 worst business tax climates in America. In order to attract jobs and industry to our state, Arkansas needs leadership to reform our tax structure and grow the state’s economy to compete with surrounding states. Arkansas does not need a one-size-fits-all leader with a one-size-fits-all solution of raising taxes to reform state government or solve budgetary woes.
The 2006 governor’s race is a watershed election for Arkansas politics. While Mike Beebe will be spending millions of dollars on television ads to reinvent himself, Arkansans will be well-served to let history shed light on Mr. Beebe’s, and the Democratic Party’s, governing philosophy.
One of history’s greatest writers, George Santayana, once wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.” In 2006, Arkansas has an opportunity to continue the positive reforms implemented by Gov. Mike Huckabee by electing a principled leader in Republican Asa Hutchinson. On the other hand, Arkansans can return to one-party rule in which corruption and scandal ruled the day.
Arkansas history will be unkind to then Senate Pro-Tempore Mike Beebe as an absent leader who turned a blind eye while Nick Wilson scammed Arkansans out of millions of dollars. Beebe’s response, “[H]e and other legislators, given the massive volume of legislation, would have no reason or time to closely examine a bill if it had no opposition, or was otherwise considered non[-]controversial, allowing dubious legislation ... to escape scrutiny.” That is relevant history, and those are mistakes that Arkansas cannot afford to repeat.
Some say campaigns are about ideals and debate concerning the future of our state. I agree with that philosophy. However, I also believe that campaigns based on ideals and the future of our state must be rooted in history. Arkansans deserve an accurate, vigorous debate about the future of Arkansas, but also an accurate debate about the history of Mike Beebe. Oh, the joys of a campaign!
Clint Reed is executive director of the Arkansas Republican Party. Ernest Dumas is on vacation.