Top 10 Conservative Governors

Ranked by HUMAN EVENTS Political Editor John Gizzi.

10. Mitch Daniels—Indiana

While the former Bush Office of Management and Budget chief upset Indiana conservatives with his call for a temporary tax increase on those earning more than $100,000-per-year (the legislature rejected this), he nonetheless overcame a $645-million deficit with spending cuts. He has also attracted more private-sector business to the state and signed a voter identification measure that infuriated liberals.

9. Mike Rounds—South Dakota

Has made nationwide headlines by pushing a measure to ban all abortions in his state—a move almost certain to lead to the Supreme Court’s revisiting Roe v. Wade. Rounds did sign phone tax and cigarette tax increases to deal with a deficit he inherited, but backs his state’s no-income tax stand and calls for property-tax relief when the state has more money.

8. Tim Pawlenty—Minnesota

Unchanged on pro-life and other social stands from his days in the legislature, Pawlenty cut more than $171 million from the budget to cover a deficit in ’03 and has called for a constitutional limit on the growth of spending.

7. Haley Barbour—Mississippi

The former GOP national chairman never veered from his no-new tax, no government-expansion policies and was a take-charge leader during Hurricane Katrina. But he has disappointed some fans by becoming a visible lobbyist for more federal tax-funded post-Katrina relief.

6. David Heineman—Nebraska

Since succeeding Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns as governor in ’05, Heineman has won high marks for vetoing a bill to provide in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants. His stand was key to his winning the GOP primary this year for a full term over Rep. Tom Osborne, revered former college football coach.

5. Rick Perry—Texas

After serving as George W. Bush’s lieutenant governor and then succeeding him as governor in ’01, Perry put through a zero-based budget to deal with a $10-billion deficit in ’04-05 and has maintained his state’s no-income-tax policy. He has proposed a $6-billion property tax cut. Perry is far tougher on border security and illegal immigration than his predecessor.

4. Jon Huntsman—Utah

After less than two years in office, this philanthropist and former Reagan and Bush Administration official has denounced the “No Child Left Behind” federal education scheme, signed a measure to void illegal immigrants’ driver’s licenses and replace them with a special “driving privilege” card, and supports school vouchers and phasing out the state sales tax on food.

3. Matt Blunt—Missouri

Backed by Republican majorities in both houses of the state legislature, America’s youngest (36) governor has successfully pushed for tax cuts as well as slashing the size of government.

2. Bill Owens—Colorado

“A sterling record of fiscal accomplishment” is how the Cato Institute characterized GOPer Owens’ six years in office. He backed a state tax and expenditure limit, cut income, capital gains and dividends taxes, and resisted raising taxes when his state had a $850-million deficit in ’03. Owens remains strongly pro-life and backed a statewide marriage initiative.

1. Jeb Bush—Florida

Winding up his second term as governor, Bush has signed a tax cut of some kind almost every year he has been in office—from slashing property to intangibles taxes—and not trimmed his pro-life, pro-voucher sails, although his refusal to permit natural gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico has upset many conservatives. He would be an obvious Republican presidential possibility in ’08 were he not following his father and brother.