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Senator Ron Johnson’s History of Tax Cuts and Lack of Support Towards Wisconsin Businesses Raises Questions

AP Photo

Staff Writer

In 2010, during his first run for Senate and elected office, Senator Ron Johnson attracted many of his voters because of his identity as a political “outsider”. He even said, in a 2010 TV ad, “I’m not a politician. I’m an accountant and a manufacturer.” 

As Johnson nears the end of his third run for office, his appeal as an “outsider” has worn off. Instead, Johnson has been criticized by many Wisconsinites for using his position as Senator to benefit himself, his businesses, and his friends. 

In 2017, while the Senate and House were negotiating the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), Ron Johnson held back the vote until a benefit for pass-through businesses was expanded. After the changes, the tax deduction for pass-through profits increased to 20%. One of Johnson’s businesses, which was sold in 2020, was created using the structure of these pass-through laws, meaning the inclusion of this provision made him millions.

The pass-through provisions also helped several of Johnson’s donors who have given millions to his various campaigns. 

And last week, information was released that Johnson’s children bought a plane utilizing tax breaks given by the TCJA. 

Earlier this year while meeting with supporters, Johnson explained that he and some of his donors benefitted from the TCJA, saying “Now, did my business benefit? Sure. Did some of my donor businesses? Sure.” 

New information recently surfaced from WKOW 27 showing that a trust fund set up by Johnson and his wife has not paid state taxes since 2016. Prior to 2016, the Senator’s trust paid hundreds of thousands to the state in taxes. According to Johnson’s campaign, the reason the candidate has not paid any taxes on his trust is because it qualifies for Wisconsin’s Manufacturing and Agriculture Tax Credit which was implemented in 2013 after it was passed under GOP Governor Scott Walker. To many of his opponents, Johnson utilizing the tax credit for his children’s trust fund is a symbol of a broken tax system and they fear what repercussions will come if Johnson wins reelection. 

In addition to criticism over Johnson using his title to benefit himself, opponents of Johnson have questioned his support of working class families in the state. 

While giving a presentation to the Commercial Association of Realtors Wisconsin, Johnson argued for the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs, saying that it was better for these products to be made overseas. 

Video Credit: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (1:22 – 1:36)

And last year, when Oshkosh Corporation was awarded a federal contract, Johnson initially supported and praised the organization. Yet, when the company announced they would use the contract to put 1,000 new jobs in South Carolina, Johnson did not defend Wisconsin workers, saying “I think when using federal tax dollars, you want to spend those in the most efficient way and if it’s more efficient, more effective to spend those in other states, I don’t have a real problem with that.” 

He doubled down on his position saying, “It’s not like we don’t have enough jobs here in Wisconsin. The biggest problem we have in Wisconsin right now is employers not being able to find enough workers.”

As election day nears, critics across the state have continued to speak out against Johnson. Phil Shulman, a Democratic Party of Wisconsin spokesperson, said “Johnson whining about being called out for his failed record rings hollow to the Wisconsinites who’ve been hurt by his out of touch policies.”

On November 8, Wisconsin voters will have a lot to think about as they consider whether or not to reelect Ron Johnson. 

The video used in this story was originally published by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.