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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Space Ad: Wrong on Pay, Misleading on Taxes

Democratic Rep. Zack Space of Ohio has kicked off his TV campaign with an ad that falsely accuses Republican challenger Bob Gibbs of voting to raise his legislative pay and misleads voters about Gibbs’ record on taxes.

Since June 8, Space has been running a TV ad called "Check Your Wallet," which claims “Gibbs voted himself a pay raise.” The charge, however, is false. The last pay raise bill, H.B. 712, was passed in 2000 — before Gibbs joined the legislature in 2003. The ad refers to a 2003 Akron Beacon Journal article, not available online, which said that a budget Gibbs voted for “allowed an automatic pay increase of 5 percent for legislators to continue unchallenged.” But the budget merely contained money to cover the costs of an annual automatic pay raise. The 2000 pay raise bill set annual increases for the years 2002 through 2008 at the lower of two rates: 3 percent or the percentage increase, if any, in the consumer price index. That bill was “the most recent change to the salaries of members of the Ohio General Assembly," according to Jennifer Parker, a staff attorney for the nonpartisan Ohio Legislative Staff Commission.

Space also misrepresents Gibbs’ record on taxes. The ad shows Gibbs delivering a speech in which he says: "I have a record of cutting taxes," to which the ad announcer retorts: "Only problem: The facts." But the fact is that Gibbs does have a record of cutting taxes. For example, he voted for a 2005 bill that when fully implemented in 2011 will cut the state income tax by 21 percent, according to a 2009 Ohio Department of Taxation fact sheet. The department estimated the tax cut would save Ohio taxpayers $1.7 billion in fiscal year 2010. Granted, Gibbs has voted to raise taxes, too. The ad is right when it says that Gibbs supported the so-called Taft Tax, and he voted in 2003 for a two-year state budget that increased state taxes by $3.2 billion. Bob Taft, a Republican, was governor at the time. It’s expected that a campaign would focus on an opponent’s tax increases, while ignoring tax cuts. But this ad goes too far when it suggests that Gibbs doesn’t have a record of cutting taxes.

Further distorting Gibbs’ tax record, Space’s ad says: "Did Gibbs give tax breaks to families? No." But Gibbs voted for a steep reduction in the state income tax — including, of course, for families. The ad goes on to say that Gibbs gave "tax breaks to golf courses." It’s true that in 2009 Gibbs supported a bill that gave golf courses a tax break. But it’s misleading to suggest, as the ad does, that he gave golf courses a tax break at the expense of families, when in fact he cut taxes for both.

by Michael Morse