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Published: 5/7/2010

Senate hopeful pushes help for small firms

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER
Rob Portman, center, discusses his U.S. Senate campaign with Anton Aringer and Betty Osenbaugh. Rob Portman, center, discusses his U.S. Senate campaign with Anton Aringer and Betty Osenbaugh.
THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Rob Portman used a South Toledo hot dog restaurant to kick off the Toledo leg of his campaign for the U.S. Senate, even as his opponent was labeling him the candidate from Wall Street.

The onetime trade representative and budget director in George W. Bush's administration ate a hot dog and spoke with diners at Rudy's Hot Dog on Glendale Avenue.

"Ohio's chances for real economic recovery continue to slip away due to the failed and misguided job-killing policies and tax-and-spend agenda coming from both Washington and Columbus," Mr. Portman said.

He won the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate unopposed Tuesday night and will face Democrat Lee Fisher, Ohio's lieutenant governor, in November for the seat held by Sen. George Voinovich (R., Ohio), who is retiring.

Mr. Fisher defeated Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner for the Democratic nomination.

Mr. Portman said his plan, "A Path to Prosperity," is heavily oriented toward small businesses.

It includes a one-year suspension of federal payroll taxes on a business' first $50,000 in wages and self-employment profits, with unspent stimulus funds making up for the loss of revenue. A spokesman said the plan would cost $380 billion.

"We have a very specific proposal here, which is to redirect stimulus dollars into small-business tax relief and payroll tax relief so that the people who work here and the people who come here to eat get a little break," Mr. Portman said.

Andy Proestou, part-owner of the six-restaurant family business, said he told Mr. Portman, "I wish to see better days ahead," but he isn't taking sides in the race.

"I'll make the decision when I get to the polls," he said.

A small-business owner who was present said she, too, is undecided in the Senate election.

Betty Osenbaugh, owner of AB&B Ergonomics, which supplies equipment to automotive manufacturers, said government needs to "get out of the way" of business.

She said government acting to bail out industries, as it did with its $52 billion rescue of General Motors, is one thing, while policies that tax and create regulations are another. She cited health-care reform with its mandates of insurance coverage as an example of government action that worries small businesses.

"I just want to vote for the person who's going to do the better job," Ms. Osenbaugh said.

The Fisher campaign links Mr. Portman with Wall Street and accuses him of opposing reform of the financial systems that are blamed for the meltdown in the economy in 2008.

"Congressman Portman spent two decades in Washington supporting tax breaks for companies that export their jobs. If you want to see the jobs Congressman Portman has created, you'd have to go to Mexico, India, and China - not Toledo," Fisher spokesman John Collins said of Mr. Portman's jobs plan.

Mr. Fisher backs creation of a consumer watchdog agency and said he supports regulations that would prevent banks doing both "risky investment trading" and commercial deposit banking.

Mr. Portman said he supports a different proposal for Wall Street reform, including what he said is stronger action to rein in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the giant federally backed mortgage lenders that he said contributed to the collapse.

Members of the group Organizing for America and the Ohio Democratic Party campaigned yesterday in Toledo to urge Senator Voinovich to support the Wall Street reform bill now in Congress and to criticize Mr. Portman's stand on the bill.

Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken, a Democrat, said Mr. Portman opposes the reform plan and supported trade agreements that sent jobs overseas.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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