“Tax Hike” Mike Huckabee: Too Liberal For Conservatives?

The 2015 political season kicked off with a bombshell hitting the 2016 GOP Primary field, with former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee announcing that he would be leaving his Fox News program to explore a run for president. This announcement comes at a time when the GOP primary field is as convoluted as ever, and many conservatives are praying for an alternative to establishment Republican Jeb Bush, who has been narrowly leading the field in most recent national polling. That being said, conservatives who have come to love Huckabee’s likable posture on television and identify with him over years of watching him on Fox News (an advantage that will certainly help him in his run) may be forgetting a disturbing pattern of liberal positions he took, new taxes he imposed and big spending bills that he signed into law as governor. Considering the fact that Huckabee has not run since 2008, a time when the GOP was far less conservative than it is today, there is reason to believe that once Huckabee’s positions are exposed to the voting public they will find him less appealing as an executive than they did as a TV show host.

Probably the single largest obstacle to a Mike Huckabee run for the GOP nomination will be overcoming his liberal record on taxation. Huckabee raised taxes by $883.1 million as governor, and the states debt services increased by nearly $1 billion. The average Arkansan’s tax burden increased by 47% under Huckabee’s leadership according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and his tax record as governor made Bill Clinton look like a fiscal conservative. In fact, his fiscal record as governor was comparable to the most liberal in the nation, as the Cato Institute rated him among the bottom 5 governors in the nation during his term. His tax hikes include taxes on income, sales, gas, cigarettes, and his support for an internet sales tax. Huckabee even supported and passed a tax increase on beds in nursing homes. These may have been obstacles that Huckabee was able to overcome in a 2008 Republican Party that was still largely in denial about the dangers of the big government Republicanism of George W Bush, but in a modern day GOP with a renewed commitment to fiscal conservatism these will prove very problematic for him.

After taxation, the largest priority for most fiscal conservatives is government spending. Unfortunately for Huckabee, he fares even worse in this department. Government spending increased by 65% when Huckabee was governor of Arkansas, and the number of government employees increased by 20%. It should also be noted that these increases were from the already high numbers left to him by Bill Clinton, who wasn’t running a conservative state budget to begin with. These spending increases went to a variety of things such as healthcare and the parks system, but the most notable use of the money was to pay for in state tuition for illegal immigrants in Arkansas. The program also made illegal immigrants eligible for college scholarships, and Huckabee characterized Republican attempts to eliminate the funds for the program as “unchristian”. Huckabee signed a mandate into law as governor requiring companies to provide contraception to their employees, even if the individual business owner was morally opposed to it. You read that correctly, the ultra social conservative Mike Huckabee signed a birth control mandate into law as governor! This may be the single greatest example of Huckabee’s TV personality contrasting sharply with his tenure as governor.

On federal issues that affected his state, Huckabee was no better. Huckabee applauded the passage of the No Child Left Behind act at the federal level, supports Common Core and lamented the Senate’s inability to pass cap and trade legislation. He has supported subsidizing healthcare at the federal level as well as wasteful agricultural subsidies for ethanol. Huckabee also supported a minimum wage increase as governor, which shifted a higher cost burden onto Arkansas businesses. These positions paint a picture of an extreme fiscal liberal who believes that government is the answer to every problem, not a conservative champion who is ready to make our arguments to the public at large as GOP nominee.

Mike Huckabee talks a great game from the conservative perspective, a skill that he has no doubt mastered in his 8 years of being in the national spotlight and several years on television. That being said, your record doesn’t simply change because you start making different statements, and generally people who have a sudden conversion to fiscal conservatism once they run for office are being disingenuous. Conservative activists need to look at a Mike Huckabee candidacy with the same skepticism that they viewed Mitt Romney’s run, because his record is just as bad if not worse. Failure to carefully examine Huckabee’s fiscal record will lead to moderate GOP nominee number 3 in the last 3 election cycles, and that is a blow the conservative movement cannot afford to take.

Rocco Lucente is the Editor-at-Large of The Liberty Conservative as well as the chairman of the Town of Ulysses GOP and a county coordinator of Campaign For Liberty in New York.


  1. Would you please share this !
    1980 – A young Mike Huckabee was working as the public relations person for James Robison. James, Ed McAteer, & Jerry Falwell wanted to have a Public Affairs Briefing in Dallas, Texas. Mike Huckabee lined the speakers up for this meeting and obtained the use of the newly constructed Reunion Arena for its first event. Below, hear James Robison and then Gov. Ronald Reagan speak. We could meet today in 2015 and their message would be the same as it was in 1980. Gov. Mike Huckabee IS speaking that same message today. Here in 1980 at the Public Affairs Briefing is where Mike Huckabee learned how politics could literally change the course of America’s history and he was a very important part of that event. Listen in to the passion of the speakers of 1980 ! We need that passion today in America like I hear from Gov. Mike Huckabee ! Gov Mike Huckabee may very well have a second opportunity to once again change the course of American History! Let’s help him do it! Huckabee 2016 !

  2. Taxing and Spending
    Mike Huckabee has been portrayed as a “big government liberal” or “RINO” by his opponents but was the only Presidential candidate who spoke out against the TARP bailouts and is a true fiscal conservative.

    Did Mike Huckabee Raise Taxes in Arkansas? Here are some fiscal facts regarding his tenure as governor:

    Cut the state capital gains tax rate by 25%.
    Pushed a $90 million tax cut package through the Arkansaslegislature in 1997.
    When faced with a $227 million deficit for fiscal year 2002, refused to call for a tax increase and instead called for a massive cut in state spending.
    Michael T. Griffith – “During the 2007-2008 Republican primary, Huckabee signed the Americans for Tax Reform’s Presidential Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which states he will “oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses . . . and oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.”
    Micah McBay (Arkansas Resident) – “What did Mike Huckabee do as governor of Arkansas?
    Set the tone of government. Following the Clintons and their hand picked successor Jim Guy Tucker (who served time in prison for his illegal dealings), Arkansas needed someone with moral integrity and honor in the Governor’s Mansion. Mike Huckabee was that man.
    Michael Medved, Townhall.com – “In terms of overall tax burden (state-local-federal) Arkansas remained virtually unchanged— from 30.3% (39th among the 50 states) to 30.5% (32nd place).

    Did Mike Huckabee Support TARP or the Stimulus Package?Huckabee disagreed with the Stimulus Package.

    Huckabee was the only Presidential candidate who disagreed with Bailouts. He stood alone against the President, Senators, Representatives and Secretary of the Treasury and – after the results have been analyzed, he was right.

    Abolished capital gains taxes on home sales.
    Abolished the state marriage penalty tax.
    From 1995 to 2005, cut taxes 90 times, returning nearly $400 million to taxpayers ($378 to be exact).
    Indexed income tax brackets to inflation, thus protecting taxpayers from being pushed into higher tax brackets by inflation.
    Doubled the child-care tax credit.
    Increased the tax deduction for single individuals to $2,000.
    Increased the tax deduction for married couples to $4,000.
    Proposed cutting the executive branch from 50 departments to 10.
    Reduced state welfare enrollment by nearly half.
    Pushed through a property owners’ bill of rights that limited property tax hikes and protected homeowners from unfair tax assessments.
    Limited the increase in the overall rate of state spending to 4.9% (AFI)–not bad, considering that he was dealing with a Democratic legislature.

    Dick Morris, Real Clear Politics – “In Arkansas, the income tax when he took office was 1 percent for the poorest taxpayers and 7 percent for the richest, exactly where it stood when he left the statehouse 11 years later. Huckabee improved infrastructure, specifically, the Governor improved our roads tremendously. Our roads were a laughingstock around the country. Truckers consistently voted I-30 and Arkansas highways as some of the worst in the nation. After Mike got done the roads were voted some of the most improved in the nation. I agree completely. I travel the roads often in my business and to visit family that lives in the state and the difference in the roads is night and day.
    “Huckabee improved education. Fixing the education system in this state is no simple task.”

  3. Mike Huckabee is not a conservative; he only played one on TV.

    You can also add to the above the fact that just last year he campaigned for Senator Lamar Alexander’s re-election in Tennessee instead of supporting the tea party conservative primary challenger. Lamar is one of the worst RINOs in the Senate,with a 62% record of voting in favor of Obama’s positions.

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