Leader Blues

Friday, November 30, 2007

EDITORIALS>>Who’s biggest tax raiser?

Ernie Dumas writes: Mike Huckabee raised more taxes in 10 years in office than Bill Clinton did in his 12 years.
Clinton tax increases

- Increased the general sales tax from 3 percent to 4 per- cent (Act 63 of special session of 1983)

- Increased sales tax by half of 1 percent and extended the tax to used vehicles (Act 3 of 1991)

- Increased the corporate income tax from 6 to 6.5 percent for corporations with net incomes greater than $100,000 (Act 1052 of 1991)

- Levied a 16 percent tax on snuff (yes, there are a few people who still dip snuff) (Act 628 of 1987)

- Levied a 25-cent tax on each pack of cigarette papers (yes, there are people who still roll their own) (Act 1045 of 1987)

- Increased the cigarette tax from 17.75 cents a pack to 21 cents a pack (Act 399 of 1983)

- Increased the cigarette tax by a penny a pack (Act 1211 of 1991)

- Levied a 2 percent tax on certain tourism items like admission to theme parks (Act 38 of 1989)

- Increased excise taxes on mixed drinks sold for on-premises consumption (not wine or beer) (Act 844 of 1983 and Act 908 of 1989)

- Increased motor fuel taxes by 1 cent a gallon (1979)

- Increased motor fuel taxes by 4 cents a gallon (Act 456 of 1985) (Clinton vetoed the bill but the legislature overrode his veto.)

- Increased the tax on motor fuels by 5 cents a gallon

- Increased motor vehicle registration fees, 1979 (subsequently repealed)
Huckabee tax increases

- Imposed an income tax surcharge of 3 percent on tax liabilities of individuals and domestic and foreign corporations (Act 38, 1st special session of 2003). (It was temporary until revenues improved. The legislature repealed it in 2005.)

- Increased the sales tax by 1/8 of one percent by initiated act (but it was a personal campaign by Huckabee, who campaigned across the state for it and took a celebrated bass boat trip for 4 days down the Arkansas River holding press conferences in each river city to urge passage of the act)

- Increased the sales tax by one-half of 1 percent (Act 1492 of 1999)

- Increased the sales tax by 7/8ths of 1 percent and expand the sales tax to many services previously exempt from the tax (Act 107, 2nd special session of 2003)

- Collected a 2 percent tax on chewing tobacco, cigars, package tobacco, cigarette papers and snuff (Act 434 of 1997)

- Levied an additional excise tax of 7 percent on tobacco (Act 38 of 1st special session of 2003)

- Increased the tax on cigarette and tobacco permits (Act 1337 of 1997)

- Increased the tax on cigarette and tobacco – cigarettes by $1.25 per thousand cigarettes and 2 percent of the manufacturers’ selling price on tobacco products (Act 434 of 1997)

- Increased the tax on cigarettes by 25 cents a pack (Act 38, 1st special session of 2003)

- Levied a 3 percent excise tax on all retail sales of beer (Act 1841 of 2001 and extended by Act 272 of 2003 and Act 2188 of 2005)

- Revived the 4 percent mixed drink tax of 1989 and added a 4 percent tax on private clubs (Act 1274 of 2005)

- Increased the tax on gasoline by 3 cents a gallon (Act 1028 of 1999)

- Increased the tax on diesel by 4 cents a gallon (Act 1028 of 1999) Note: Contrary to what Huckabee has said repeatedly in debates, speeches and TV shows, the 1999 gasoline and diesel taxes were not submitted to the voters and approved by 80 per cent of them. It was never submitted to a vote. It was the governor’s bill and it became law without a vote of the people. What the voters did approve in 1999 was a bond issue for interstate highway reconstruction but it did not involve a tax increase. Existing taxes and federal receipts were pledged to retire the bonds.

- Increased the driver’s license by $6 a person, from $14 to $20 (Act 1500 of 2001)
So which raised taxes more? It is hard to quantify. If you measured the increases in the revenue stream, the Huckabee tax cuts far exceeded Clinton’s but that would be unfair because the economy had grown and the same penny of tax would produce far more under Huckabee.

But if you look at the major taxes, I see the aggregate Huckabee taxes as greater, especially if you deduct the 4 cent gasoline and diesel taxes that Clinton vetoed in 1985 and that the legislature enacted over his veto.

Anyway, the sales tax is the big revenue producer. Both raised it by 1.5 cents on the dollar and both expanded it to cover a myriad of services. Clinton raised motor fuel taxes a little more, Huckabee cigarette taxes a lot more.

A further note: Huckabee claims credit for a major tax cut in 1997, saying it was the first tax cut in Arkansas history (there had been many prior to that) and that he forced the Democratic legislature to curtail its impulse to always raise taxes.

The facts: The omnibus income tax cut bill of 1997 was proposed by Gov. Jim Guy Tucker in the spring of 1996. It had multiple (7) features, all aimed at relief for middle-class families or the elderly. He asked interim legislative committees to expand on his plan. Tucker then resigned before the legislature convened after his conviction on Whitewater-related charges, and Huckabee took office.

At the legislative session that followed, the Democratic caucus of the House (88 of the 100 members) made the Tucker tax cuts its chief program. The bill was introduced with 83 sponsors (all Democrats) and all Democrats voted for it. It was unopposed. Huckabee’s tax cut was to give each taxpayer a check for $25 each fall, saying it would help offset the burden of sales taxes on groceries (the repeal of which he repeatedly opposed). The legislature rejected Huckabee’s plan and passed the Tucker bill. Huckabee signed it into law.

The 94 tax cuts that he said he fathered are similarly misleading. The vast majority of those were the usual exemptions and modifications of various taxes and fees that the legislature enacts every time it meets. They were not a part of Huckabee’s program with a few exceptions. Rather, Democratic legislators sponsored them, usually at the behest of whatever special interest benefited, and Huckabee signed them when they hit his desk. If you did a similar summary of Clinton’s years he could claim probably well over 100 tax cuts. Every Arkansas governor since World War II could claim dozens each.

If you counted all the tax benefits extended to corporations under the incentives enacted by the legislature under Clinton — and they were part of his programs, especially in 1983, 1985 and 1989 — the tax cuts would dwarf those under Huckabee.