Gov. Sarah Palin’s Record on Taxes and Spending

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has a mixed record on taxes and spending. She’s clearly erred on a few fiscal decisions during her tenure as mayor of Wasilla and as governor. Palin seems to operate from a small government mindset, which makes her few heresies on economic issues puzzling.

Palin has come under fire for supporting the “Bridge to Nowhere” in Ketchikan before she was against it. Aides said the cost of the bridge soared from $223 million to almost $400 million, prompting her to consider alternatives.

“She made the final decision to kill a very bad project, so she deserves credit for that. But she didn’t do it as an ideological opponent of earmarks. She did it as someone who had to balance the books,” Keith Ashdown, an investigator with Taxpayers for Common Sense told The Washington Post.

At best, Palin has been a convert on earmarks (and perhaps not a full convert). As governor of Alaska, she has requested 31 earmarks worth $197.8 million for next year, according to indicted Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens’ website, the Los Angeles Times reported. As mayor of Wasilla, Palin regularly traveled to Washington to request earmarks. The city obtained funding for several projects, including a bus depot ($600,000) and a water and sewer project ($1.5 million), according to Taxpayers for Common Sense.

As Wasilla mayor, Palin has a decidedly mixed record on taxes and spending. She slashed her salary and cut property taxes by 40 percent because of booming sales tax revenue from new stores.

But Palin also increased the budget by spending on roads and sewers, left the town nearly $20 million in debt and raised the city sales tax by half a percent (she said the money was needed to support construction of an indoor ice rink and sports complex and a police dispatch center).

As governor, Palin slashed more than 10 percent of the state’s budget in 2007 (Question: Besides his checkbook, has Barack Obama ever balanced — much less cut — a budget?). She vetoed $268 million in state projects and imposed objective criteria on the projects.

One of her signature accomplishments as governor was a $1.5 billion tax increase on oil production, infuriating oil companies, according to The New York Times. She accused oil companies of bribing legislators to keep taxes low and, soon after, passed a $1,200 “energy rebate” to each Alaskan from the state’s budget surplus.

As Chris Edwards noted, Palin has a spotty record on tax issues, mentioning the windfall profits tax on oil companies and noting she’s offered only minor tax breaks.

Libertarians should be cautiously optimistic about Palin. She has shown a dogged willingness to go to war with the worst elements of the Republican Party, but her missteps on some tax and spending issues means that libertarians should aggressively pressure a McCain-Palin administration to toe the small government line.