Top 10 Liberal Governors

Ranked by HUMAN EVENTS Political Editor John Gizzi.

10. Linda Lingle—Hawaii

Many GOP contributors were willing to swallow Republican Lingle’s social liberalism in ’02 in order to get a governor who would cut spending. Lingle has never pursued a reduction in the state income tax and actually reversed her own spending cuts in September ’03 when she proposed a supplemental budget that raised general-fund spending by 2%.

9. Kathleen Sebelius—Kansas

After campaigning as a fiscal moderate in ’02, Democrat Sebelius has turned out more like her liberal father, former Ohio Democratic Gov. John Gilligan. She has called for increasing the sales-tax rate from 5.3% to 5.7% by ’07, imposing a surcharge on state income taxes, and raising property taxes.

8. James Doyle—Wisconsin

Having campaigned as a no-nonsense budget cutter in ’02 and actually cutting about 2,000 state jobs, Democrat Doyle dismayed admirers when his ’04 budget raised spending 6% over the level when he took office. He also balanced his budget through fee increases and a revenue-sharing deal with Indian casinos.  

7. Ruth Ann Minner—Delaware

Democrat Minner called for raising fees and taxes by $145 million in ’01. By ’03, when the state had a surplus, she called for massive new programs such as all-day kindergarten and expanding the state-funded health care program.

6. Christine Gregoire—Washington

Democrat Gregoire has never recovered from the cloud hanging over her microscopic election in ’04 in which she finally overtook top vote-getter Dino Rossi on the third recount of the ballots. Her calls for raising various taxes and increasing spending have only enhanced lingering animosity from the election, and polls show her losing badly in a rematch with Republican Rossi in ’08.

5. Robert Taft—Ohio

Scandal-plagued heir to Ohio’s most illustrious political name, Republican Taft presided over an annual increase of 5.5% in per capita spending in his first term and signed a $349-million increase in business taxes enacted by the state legislature (down slightly from the $465-million hike Taft originally recommended). He has raised taxes on cigarettes 130%, and, in his second term, fought for increases in alcohol, fuel and sales taxes.

4. Ted Kulongoski—Oregon

Initially beaten in his efforts to raise the state income tax, Democrat Kulongoski rebounded by securing passage from the legislature of an $800-million tax increase package that included hikes in the corporate income tax, property tax and a new concept: taxing health care providers. Voters subsequently rejected the package by a 3-to-2 margin of in a February ’04 initiative.

3. Jennifer Granholm—Michigan

The onetime “Dating Game” contestant ballyhooed as a national Democratic star has come across as a major disappointment to supporters. Breaking her ’02 anti-tax campaign theme, she called for ending certain corporate tax deductions and supported a new inheritance tax. Polls show Granholm trailing GOP opponent Dick DeVos for re-election this fall.

2. Rod Blagojevich—Illinois

Elected on a vow not to raise state income or sales taxes, Democrat Blagojevich has proposed tax increases averaging $500 million a year since taking office in ’02. He also called for expanding general-fund spending by 9.6% per capita at a time Illinois was grappling with a $5-billion deficit.  

1. Kathleen Blanco—Louisiana

The first woman governor of Louisiana fronted for Democrats in their hurling of invective at the Bush Administration for supposedly not properly handling Hurricane Katrina relief. In the most definitive book on Katrina so far (The Great Deluge), historian Douglas Brinkley paints a withering portrait of Blanco’s own inaction in the wake of America’s worst-ever natural disaster.