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Under fire for raising taxes, Mike Huckabee is citing benefits of the extra tax money: school improvements, health care and better roads.
At a debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C., on Jan. 10, 2008, Huckabee repeated a claim he has made several times about how much Arkansas' roads improved.
"I took on the worst road system in the country, according to Trucker's magazine," Huckabee said. "When I left, they said it was the most improved road system in the country."
We find Huckabee glosses over some details but is right that his state made big improvements.
First, we couldn't find such an article in "Trucker's magazine" ... because we couldn't find a magazine by that name. It's clear he is referring to an annual survey done by Overdrive magazine ("The voice of the American trucker"), which asks truck drivers to name the best and worst highways.
When Huckabee took office in 1996, Overdrive's survey said Arkansas' roads were fifth worst in the United States. The state kept slipping in the rankings and by 2000 it was indeed the worst in the nation.
The shoddy highways persuaded the Arkansas Legislature to raise gasoline and diesel taxes in 1999, which paid for major repairs to the state's road network.
By 2004, Arkansas was rated the state with the most improved roads in Overdrive's annual survey.
In 2006, Huckabee's last full year in office, Overdrive did not do overall rankings for the states, so it's a stretch for him to say they were most improved "when I left." However, the truckers that year listed Interstate 40 in Arkansas as the most improved road in the nation. Interstate 30 in Arkansas was No. 4 on the list.
Yet despite the improvement that occurred under Huckabee, the state's roads still rate near the bottom overall.
In the January 2008 issue, Arkansas is rated fifth worst – the same as when Huckabee took office.
"They have done a lot of work," said Andy Duncan, a senior editor for the magazine. "Nevertheless, the consensus is that they have a ways to go."
And so while Huckabee is right that the state earned the honor for the most improved roads at one point in his term, it's a stretch to say that was the case when he left office. And Arkansas still lags behind other states. So we rate Huckabee's claim Mostly True.
Overdrive, Rougher than a corncob, December 2006
Overdrive, 2007 Highway Report Card, January 2008
Interviews: Todd Dills and Andy Duncan, Overdrive senior editor
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