The campaign of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is presenting his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK), as a reformer, fiscal conservative, and “tough minded budget cutter.” Other conservatives have latched onto this image – Phyllis Schlafly calls Palin “the total package” with “fiscal conservative credentials.”
However, as mayor of Wasilla, AK, Palin “was not always the fiscal watchdog she has since boasted of being.”
During her term in office, Palin cut property taxes and other small taxes on business. But as the Anchorage Daily News points out, “She wasn’t doing this by shrinking government.” During her tenure, the budget of Wasilla (population 5,469 in 2000) “apart from capital projects and debt, rose from $3.9 million in fiscal 1996 to $5.8 million.”
Palin also successfully pushed through a sales tax increase in Wasilla, which went to fund a $15 million sports complex. However, a land dispute over the sight of the complex led to “years of legal wrangling” and cost Wasilla almost $1.7 million, “a lot more than the roughly $125,000 the city would have paid in 1998 if it had closed a deal to buy the property outright.” Wasilla is still facing budget shortfalls from the case today.
But Palin’s approach actually brings her in line with McCain, whose own “massive tax cuts” “would recklessly exacerbate the fiscal irresponsibility of the Bush Administration” and cause the largest deficit in 25 years.