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Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin pushed for a tax cut provision in 2017 that benefited his former plastics company and many others as his family acquired properties around the country, a newspaper review of property records showed.
The so-called “excess” corporate tax cut not only benefited Johnson’s company and big donors, as previously reported, but came as the senator’s family was acquiring luxury properties that could also take advantage of the law, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Friday.
There is nothing illegal about Johnson or his family members taking the deduction available to corporations and other businesses that pass all of their income to their owners or investors. Companies structured in this way, often small family-owned businesses, are not subject to income tax.
Johnson faces Democratic Gov. Mandela Barnes in Tuesday’s election, a race that polls have shown is tight.
Johnson’s spokesman, Ben Voelkel, said the senator and his wife have no interest in the properties, except for their home in Oshkosh and the Pacur property, which plastics manufacturer Johnson previously owned. Voelkel said he did not know how many of the Johnson family companies have increased their tax burden by using the deduction in then-President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax law.
“In the future, when anyone wonders why more good people aren’t running for public office, let them investigate the bogus attacks and character assassinations used by Democrats and their allies in the media in the 2022 US Senate and Wisconsin gubernatorial elections,” Voelkel said. .
The Journal Sentinel reported that Johnson’s three grown children benefit from a family trust and are listed as directors of about 10 companies registered with the state’s Financial Services Agency.
Those companies and the family trust own about two dozen properties around the country with an appraised value of $21 million, the paper said.
In 2017, Johnson held up passage of Trump’s tax bill by challenging the plan’s already generous tax breaks for pass-through businesses. The Trump administration originally proposed allowing business owners to deduct up to 17.4% of their profits. Johnson campaigned to raise it to 23%. That number ended up being 20%.
Several studies have found that the tax cut primarily helped the wealthy.
Ross Milton, an assistant professor at the La Follette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the carryover clause is “still a hotly debated topic among people in tax policy.”
“I think these devolution provisions have been criticized because a lot of their benefits go to very high-income and/or wealthy households,” Milton said. “And presumably the Johnson family is a high-income household.
After learning of the Johnson family’s extensive real estate holdings from the Journal Sentinel, Barnes campaign spokeswoman Maddy McDaniel said she wasn’t surprised.
“During his 12 years in the United States Senate, Ron Johnson’s priority has been to deliver tax breaks for himself and his wealthy donors at the expense of working families,” McDaniel said.