(Alexandria, VA) – Ohio Senate candidates Sherrod Brown and Josh Mandel continue to stress their policy differences on the campaign trail, but how do their words translate to dollars, and do they have any stances in common? According to a line-by-line analysis from the non-partisan National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF), Brown’s campaign platform, taken in its entirety, would increase annual federal spending by over $6 billion annually, while the agenda Mandel outlined would reduce the federal budget by nearly $104 billion per year. However, Brown and Mandel also made proposals whose costs or savings are impossible to calculate – including “spending freezes” both of them offered that cannot be reconciled with current law.
“Candidates make many promises to taxpayers in the course of a campaign, but the actual impact on the federal budget often gets lost in the rhetoric,” said NTUF Senior Policy Analyst Demian Brady, who co-authored the report with NTUF Policy Analyst Dan Barrett. “NTUF’s cost analysis can help citizens sort through the soft words and get to the hard questions about where Senate hopefuls would take fiscal policy.” Among the findings:
- Sherrod Brown’s campaign promises to date would increase annual federal spending by a net of $6.2 billion. NTUF identified 15 of Brown’s proposals as affecting federal expenditures; five would increase outlays, two would reduce them, and eight have costs or savings that were impossible to accurately determine.
- Major items on Brown’s agenda include $6 billion in annual spending for “better classrooms” and a “comfortable learning environment,” stemming from legislation he has introduced in Congress. He also advocates limits on federal subsidies to wealthy farmers, for a savings of $223 million a year.
- Josh Mandel’s platform would, in its entirety, produce a net annual savings of $103.9 billion. NTUF found 11 proposals he made with a spending effect: three to raise expenditures, four to lower them, and four without quantifiable estimates of costs or savings.
- Mandel’s single largest budget increase was $65 million annually, connected to a plan allowing purchases of health insurance across state lines. On the other end of the scale, Mandel seeks repeal of the 2010 health care law, scored for a reduction in spending of $63.9 billion each year. He would also seek to cap total federal outlays as a percentage of GDP. A phased-in version of this cap could reduce spending by an additional $34.4 billion annually.
One challenge NTUF researchers found was that nearly half Brown’s and Mandel’s proposals likely have some fiscal impact, but owing to a lack of specificity in their plans, they could not be estimated with reasonable accuracy. Even seemingly straightforward campaign planks proved to be complex on closer examination. Mandel and Brown offered related versions of a freeze on federal discretionary outlays without explaining how they would interact with the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011. Because the BCA already provided for spending caps and further budget reductions through a “sequester” mechanism, Brown’s and Mandel’s “freeze” proposals could, under certain circumstances, actually increase outlays.
“As the Brown and Mandel spending-freeze plans demonstrate, a closer look at the planks of candidates’ platforms can reveal more than a few knotholes,” Brady concluded. “Our analysis can help citizens evaluate how these policies would alter the federal budget … and help them identify places where the blueprints remain unclear.”
In preparing their analysis, Brady and Barrett utilized campaign websites, transcripts of debates, and news sources to gather information on any proposals from the two leading Ohio Senate race contenders that could impact the level of federal spending. They in turn verified cost estimates for these items against independent sources such as the Congressional Budget Office. They also cross-checked items through NTUF’s BillTally system, which since 1991 has computed agenda costs for each Member of Congress based on their sponsorship of bills.
NTUF’s analysis of the Ohio’s candidates’ agendas is one of several the group is currently conducting. Contests are being selected on factors such as geographic diversity, political significance as rated by outside groups and analysts, and the level of specificity in the candidates’ platforms.
NTUF is the research and educational arm of the 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union, a non-profit citizen group. Note: The line-by-line cost analysis of the Ohio and other Senate candidates’ spending agendas, along with more information on BillTally, are available online at www.ntu.org.