America's Overnight Sensation Joe the Plumber Owes $1,200 in Taxes

The state of Ohio has a lien on Joe the Plumber for nearly $1,200 in taxes.

October 16, 2008, 8:29 AM

Oct. 16, 2008 — -- And the winner of the final presidential debate was … Joe the Plumber.

The suddenly famous Joe the Plumber, whose real name is Sam Joe Wurzelbacher, was invoked 23 times by John McCain and Barack Obama as they battled for the hearts and minds of voters during Wednesday night's debate.

"It floored me. It's not something I expected ever," Wurzelbacher said in an exclusive interview with Diane Sawyer on "Good Morning America." "My son is digging it. It's kind of neat."

Wurzelbacher has become the focal point of the presidential election because of his objections to Obama's plan to boost taxes on people who earn more than $250,000. Ironically, the plumber currently has an income level that would make him eligible for Obama's proposed tax cut rather than the tax increase.

Wurzelbacher said he didn't give any interviews before Wednesday's debate because he was busy fixing a water main break at a gas station and "I was muddy and soaking wet."

Wurzelbacher said he had a couple of plumbing jobs scheduled for today and hoped he would get more calls before the day was out.

He will need the money. Wurzelbacher's new notoriety has brought to light the fact that he owes nearly $1,200 in unpaid taxes.

"There is a judgment lien against him for nonpayment of income tax," Barb Losie, deputy clerk of the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas, told "The state files hundreds of liens a day. It means he owes that money."

Losie said Wurzelbacher owes $1,182 from January 2007, but no action has been taken against him outside of filing the lien.

"There is no judge pulled, there is no attorney assigned... There is a 99 percent chance he doesn't know about the lien, unless he did a credit report or was ready to pay his taxes," Losie said.

A second lien has been filed in the courhouse against Wurzelbacher for $1,261 that he apparently owes St. Charles Mercy Hospital. That lien was filed in March 2007.

Joe the Plumber Bashes Obama Tax Plan

The Ohio plumber of 15 years came into the spotlight Sunday when he met Obama as the Democratic senator campaigned in Toledo, Ohio. Wurzelbacher questioned Obama about his plan to increase taxes for incomes of more than $250,000.

Wurzelbacher told Obama he was trying to buy a plumbing business that would put him in that tax bracket and wondered how much he would be taxed if he acquired it.

When asked whether the McCain campaign had told him he would be a prominent part of the debate and whether McCain's people had approached him before he met Obama, Wurzelbacher was unclear.

"Oh no. No one's contacted me as far as being on the debate or as far as my name being used," Wurzelbacher said. "I have been contacted by them and asked to show up at a rally, but other than that, I just happened to be there and Barack Obama showed up."

When Obama was quizzed by Wurzelbacher, the plumber quickly became one of the most recognized faces of the campaign and a forceful voice on taxing higher income brackets.

"Not that I don't want to be taxed," Wurzelbacher told "GMA." "You have to be taxed. Just because you work a little harder to have a little bit more money taken from you, I mean, that's scary. I worked hard for it. Why should I be taxed more than other people?"

He was even more passionate when he explained his objections to ABC News' "Nightline" shortly after the debate ended.

"To be honest with you, that infuriates me," Wurzelbacher told "Nightline." "It's not right for someone to decide you made too much -- that you've done too good and now we're going to take some of it back."

"That's just completely wrong," he added.

Wurzelbacher conceded today that he is not in danger of being hit with the higher tax rate. He acknowledged that he wants to buy a plumbing company for $250,000 to $280,000. That wouldn't be how much profit he would make from the firm.

He would make much less, he said.

That would seem to indicate that Wurzelbacher would not be subject to Obama's proposed tax increase from 36 percent to 39 percent for those making more than $250,000 per family. Instead, he would be eligible for a tax cut that Obama is proposing.

Nevertheless, the plumber said people shouldn't be "punished' for success even if you become a billionaire.

"I don't like it," said Wurzelbacher. "You know, me or -- you know, Bill Gates, I don't care who you are. If you worked for it, if it was your idea, and you implemented it, it's not right for someone to decide you made too much."

Debate Became Personal for Joe the Plumber

Wednesday night's debate became very personal for Wurzelbacher.

"You were going to put him in a higher tax bracket, which was going to increase his taxes, which was going to cause him not to be able to employ people, which Joe was trying to realize the American dream," McCain said to Obama.

The Arizona senator then looked directly into the TV camera and said: "Joe, I want to tell you, I'll not only help you buy that business that you worked your whole life for and I'll keep your taxes low and I'll provide available and affordable health care for you and your employees. And I will not stand for a tax increase on small-business income."

Wurzelbacher would not reveal whom he'll cast his ballot for Nov. 4.

"That's a personal decision. Myself and the button I push will know that answer," he said.

He encouraged voters to "be educated" before selecting a candidate.

"Don't sit there and take someone else's opinion. Listen to them. Find the information out for yourself," Wurzelbacher said.

ABC News' Chris Bury contributed to this report.