- The Washington Times - Monday, December 10, 2001

They're chuckling, cheering and chafing in Arkansas these days over Gov. Mike Huckabee's novel idea for raising more taxes: He's inviting taxpayers who want to pay more to do so.
The Republican governor, who appears to be a shoo-in for a second term next year, has set up the "Tax Me More Fund" to give voters who think they are not taxed enough the chance to send more money to the state.
Mr. Huckabee's opponents in the news media and in the state legislature were nearly apoplectic when he announced the creation of the fund, but the governor says he is not fazed. "I'm having way too much fun," he says.
"The press is mad at me and some of the liberals in the legislature are furious and have resorted to name-calling, but the people understand it. They get the whole deal," the governor said in a telephone interview.
"I have not had one person come up to me and say 'I haven't been paying enough in taxes and my wife and I feel guilty we aren't paying enough,' " he said with a chuckle.
Since the fund was announced, he says the Department of Finance and Administration has collected "a whopping $260." And that's the point that Mr. Huckabee says his tongue-in-cheek idea makes loud and clear: Most people do not want their taxes raised.
"What it does is expose the hypocrisy of the liberals because they want to raise taxes as long as someone else has to pay for them. Our state law does not prohibit someone from paying more. So if they believe it would make them feel better to contribute more, then I want them to write as generous a check as they can to make themselves feel good," Mr. Huckabee said.
"I have a pocketful of pre-addressed envelopes for them to mail in their checks. If someone in the legislature comes up to me and talks about a tax increase, I pull out an envelope and say mail it in. They just shake their head," he said.
Like most states during the current economic slump, Arkansas has seen its tax revenues fall, resulting in a $142 million deficit this year, equaling about 4 percent of the state's budget. But Mr. Huckabee has resisted calls for a special session of the legislature to consider new taxes.
"My feeling is everyone in Arkansas is having to adjust to the downturn in the economy and every business is doing the same. Asking Arkansas to cough up more money during a recession is like asking a bleeding hemophiliac to donate a pint of blood to the Red Cross," he said.
The governor's political opponents have attacked him with a vengeance. Sen. John Riggs, a Little Rock Democrat, has called Mr. Huckabee "a clown," and former Democratic Govs. Dale Bumpers and David Pryor say that the fund is not a serious solution to the state's budget shortfall.
But Mr. Huckabee, whose job approval ratings are running over 70 percent, has been cheered on the campaign trail whenever he raises the tax issue and pulls out his pre-address envelopes to the Tax Me More Fund.
"The point that the people of Arkansas get clearly right now is they are struggling to hold their jobs, pay their rent, make a car payment and put a piece of baloney between two slices of bread for lunch," he said.
Mr. Huckabee's political success with his tax fund has not gone unnoticed among campaign strategists elsewhere, some of whom think it could be used in other gubernatorial campaigns.
"I think he has come up with a kind of clever ploy that has the liberals sputtering," said Stephen Moore, president of the Club for Growth, which supports candidates who favor tax cuts.
"There is going to be increasing muttering about raising taxes in next year's campaigns, and this type of approach by Huckabee might be a good way to stop the liberals in their tracks," Mr. Moore said.


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