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Money and taxes become important issues in Ohio's Republican U.S. Senate race

The candidates stand on stage during closing remarks of Ohio's U.S. Senate Republican Primary debate, Monday, March 28, 2022, at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio.
Joshua A. Bickel
The candidates stand on stage during closing remarks of Ohio's U.S. Senate Republican Primary debate, Monday, March 28, 2022, at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio.

The five leading candidates have long touted the Republican Party’s usual stance –that the government spends too much money and that tax cuts are good. But then a six-month-old podcast from Crain’s Cleveland Business called “The Landscape” was unearthed, featuring Mike Gibbons.

“The top 20% of earners in the United States pay 82% of federal income tax. And if you do the math, and 45-50% don’t pay any income tax, you can see the middle class is not really paying any kind of a fair share,” Gibbons said in that podcast.

Gibbons said in an interview that his opponents have been taking that out of context.

“They said I want to increase taxes on the middle class. I've never said that in my life. I've never said I wanted to increase taxes on anybody,” Gibbons said. “I took the Taxpayer Protection pledge twice. I'll never vote for a tax increase, ever. I want a smaller government, not a bigger one.”

Jane Timken had been targeted in a Gibbons ad on tax policy. Timken said in an interview that she takes Gibbons’ comments to mean he’d raise taxes.

“I advocate cutting taxes for the middle class. I believe that taxpayers know best how to spend their money,” Timken said. “And we in this country don't have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem, and it's about reducing the amount of money our federal government is spending.”

On that subject, Timken was asked at the Republican US Senate debate at Central State University last month about Florida Sen. Rick Scott’s proposal that all Americans should pay at least some income taxes, including about half who don’t earn enough to pay them under current law.

“Absolutely I would not support Rick Scott’s agenda, especially because it raises taxes on the middle class,” Timken said at that debate.

JD Vance, the candidate endorsed by former president Trump, declined an interview, but made a similar statement at that debate.

“I don’t agree with everything – in particular, he’s advocated for middle class tax increases. I think that’s a joke for the Republican Party. Why would we increase the taxes on the middle class?” Vance said at the debate.

But Vance has been blasted on tax policy too. He was called anti-business for saying that corporations that advocate against Republican-backed voting law changes should be punished with higher taxes. He talked about that in a town hall on Newsmax April 20.

“It’s not just their customers are American taxpayers. It’s they get a ton of special privileges. They get liability protections. They get subsidies. We should be willing to cut that stuff off if these corporations are going to engage in politics,” Vance said in that town hall.

Vance, Timken and Gibbons have no record on tax policy because they’ve not been in a position to cast votes on it.

But Josh Mandel has. He voted for budgets with tax cuts as a state representative from 2007 till he was elected state treasurer and took office in 2011. Mandel never responded to a request for an interview, but noted his work in the Republican Senate debate at Central State in March.

“When I was state treasurer, I took the entire state of Ohio’s checkbook, I put it online. I said the taxpayers have a right to know how the tax money is being spent. And by doing that we brought transparency, and we cut the state budget. I’m going to do the same thing in Washington,” Mandel said at that debate.

That message morphed a bit in an ad featuring Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

“Josh Mandel took Ohio from an $8 billion budget hole to a billion dollar surplus,” Cruz said in that ad.

That’s not true, because Mandel didn’t have a vote on that budget crafted in 2011 by former Gov. John Kasich, who is soundly rejected by many pro-Trump Republicans for his opposition to Trump. And there’s widespread dispute over that $8 billion budget hole.

Matt Dolan wasn’t in the legislature in 2011 either. He became a state senator in 2017, has voted for and worked on Republican-created budgets and also chaired the Senate Finance Committee, which he noted in an ad.

Critics say tax cuts in the last several budgets have benefited the wealthy and hurt lower-income people, which Dolan disputes. And he said in an interview he wants to take similar steps at the federal level, including cutting the corporate tax rate.

“I think in the United States we tax our companies way too much and it's a disincentive to maintain their businesses in the United States or to relocate back to the United States,” Dolan said. “So we have to make it attractive for the private sector to invest here because when they do, we are much better off.”

Also in this race are central Ohio businessmen Mark Pukita and Neil Patel. Neither have bought cable or broadcast ads. While the five leading candidates have raised millions and all but Mandel have loaned millions to their campaigns, Pukita has raised just over $40,000 not counting loans, and Patel has brought in just under $54,000.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau