Arkansas 'Tax Me More Fund' Swells to More Than $1,000

By Steve Brawner | July 7, 2008 | 8:28 PM EDT

( - Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's satirical "Tax Me More Fund" has cracked the one thousand dollar barrier. Huckabee created the fund in November after some lawmakers and media commentators suggested raising taxes to deal with the state's $142 million budget shortfall.

The tongue-in-cheek fund is meant to showcase what Huckabee feels is the hypocrisy of people who support higher taxes but refuse to donate their own money. Thirty-six donors have come forward with donations totaling $1,051.91.

In creating the fund, Huckabee said, "There's nothing in the law that prohibits those who believe they aren't paying enough in taxes from writing a check to the state of Arkansas. Maybe this will make them feel better."

The 36 deposits range from two donations of a penny each to a high of $200 from a Little Rock resident. Seven have come from out of state. According to Roberta Overman, manager of the sales tax section at the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, "Every penny's being deposited, even if we get a penny."

Many donations came from supporters of the governor's anti-tax stance. But, Ryan Ratliff, a law student at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, wasn't one of them.

"I sent it in as an illustration that the economy is a serious matter and that our governor is making a joke of serious issues. I sent $5 as a protest and to illustrate that we have a clown as a governor," Ratliff said.

Many have included notes. Barbara Stanford of Little Rock contributed $200 and wrote that she receives far more than that in library books and visits to the park. "As I think of all of the really important benefits I gain from the state, I think that my contribution should be more. If you need to raise taxes to keep the services that add so much to my life, please do so," she wrote.

Most letters are supportive. One non-contributor wrote, "As an Arkansas taxpayer for many years now, I feel I have paid more than my fair share of state sales taxes, county sales taxes, property taxes, etc. Please let this letter serve as an invoice to the Tax Me More Fund that I am owed $1,144.85 in overpayment of my fair share of taxes for the past year alone. When the fund reaches the amount stated above, please send me my money back."

A Little Rock resident who contributed $1 wrote Huckabee, "I have also included some pizza coupons that you can give to some poor children and a Jazzercise coupon you can use to keep yourself fit and trim for the upcoming race."

Referring to the governor's traditional Southern Baptist roots, he continued, "Don't worry, they tell me Jazzercize isn't dancing."

Huckabee spokesman Jim Harris said state media attention has been generally negative, while national media attention has been mostly positive. Harris said Huckabee recently discussed the fund with President George Bush. "President Bush thought it was a wonderful idea," Harris said.

The budget shortfall threatens $3,000 teacher pay raises, slated to be phased in over two years, although some have already received the first year's $1,000 installment. Scholarships, Medicaid programs and other state services are also feeling the pinch.

Instead of raising taxes, Harris said the governor supports following the state's Revenue Stabilization Act as a means of dealing with the shortfall.

At the end of each legislative session, lawmakers create three levels of spending priorities, with the higher priorities more certain of funding. According to Harris, "That's how people run their household budgets."

Huckabee first announced the Tax Me More Fund at a convention of the Arkansas Farm Bureau in Little Rock. According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, he responded to laughter in the audience by saying, "I'm as serious as I can be. It's put up or shut up time. Either put up the money, write the check and let us see you're serious or quit telling me
Arkansans want their taxes raised. Because I'm convinced that Arkansans would say, my taxes are high enough."

The fund has a real address of P.O. Box 8054, Little Rock, AR 72203.