In the run-up to the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses, Huckabee is running a TV ad featuring graphics that claim he was "tough on crime" and "brought Arkansas' crime rate down," and that he "cut taxes over 90 times as governor."
In fact, the violent crime rate was higher at the end of his tenure than it was the year he took office. And the tax cuts he claims credit for were minor compared with the large increases he approved, which included an increase in the state sales tax.
In the ad, which began running in Iowa on Dec. 28, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee talks of God, the nation's founders and the innate worth of each citizen. But on screen, graphics flash up giving Huckabee credit for bringing down both crime and taxes while governor of Arkansas. We find both claims to be misleading.
Huckabee for President Ad: "Founding Fathers"
Huckabee: I'm Mike Huckabee and I approve this message. A nation is confused, when it forgets who it is. I don't think your value as a human being is found in your checking account. Our founding fathers believed that your worth was something unique because it was given to you by God. And they knew, that these unalienable rights that we had, came from that creator. That if you worked real hard in this country, you could get somewhere. And if that doesn't mean anything anymore, than our founding fathers were wrong. I don't believe so. I think they were right.
Huckabee's ad says he was "tough on crime" and "brought Arkansas' crime rates down." But that's not quite right. While the overall crime rate did decline by 3.9 percent, that was due entirely to a 5.0 percent reduction in property crimes, such as burglaries and auto theft. When it comes to violent crimes, a category that includes murders, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults, Huckabee's record is mixed: Murders and robberies declined, while rapes and aggravated assaults increased. Overall, the violent crime rate was actually 5.2 percent higher than in 1996, when he took office more than midway through the year on July 15.
According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports, Arkansas' violent crime rate stood at 5.24 incidents per 1,000 people in 1996 and 5.52 in 2006. A more charitable comparison might use 1995 as the starting point, giving Huckabee credit for all the decline in 1996 even though more than six months were gone before he took office and could have done anything. But even by that measure violent crime was practically the same at the end of his term as it was the year before he took office.
The rate did go down during his tenure to a low of 4.25 per thousand people in 1999, and it dropped to that level again in 2002. But a steady increase quickly followed, erasing the improvement, as the following chart illustrates.
Huckabee's Economic Evasiveness
The ad shows a graphic asserting that Huckabee "cut taxes over 90 times" as governor. As we've noted previously, 90 tax cuts indeed were enacted under Huckabee. However, so were 21 tax increases, and they far outweighed the cuts.
The total net tax increase under Huckabee was an estimated $505.1 million, according to the state Department of Finance and Administration's Whitney McLaughlin, who says that the figure has been adjusted for inflation.
Not surprisingly, anti-tax groups give Huckabee poor marks. The conservative Club for Growth, for example, ran an ad in December attacking him, using old video of the then-governor appealing to the state Legislature to raise taxes. “Mike Huckabee is telling folks that he cut taxes 94 times, but the truth is, Huckabee’s tax increases far surpassed his tax cuts, and taxpayers deserve to know the truth,” said Pat Toomey, the group's president, in a statement when the ad was released.
Huckabee's ad also boasts that he "balanced the budget every year" he was governor, but that's not much to crow about. Like other governors, he must balance the state budget by law.
– by Justin Bank
Nasaw, Daniel. "10-year record on taxes studied." Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 9 Oct. 2007.
"Amendment 20: State Bonds." Constitution Of The State Of Arkansas Of 1874, 20 Nov. 2007.
"Uniform Crime Reports Database." FBI, accessed 30 Dec. 2007.