WASHINGTON — New Mexico’s U.S. senators both voted to allow tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans to expire Wednesday, while candidates for one of two seats parted ways on the issue.
Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall, both Democrats, voted for a bill that would extend tax cuts to American households earning up to $250,000 and single Americans earning up to $200,000, while letting them expire for families and individuals making more than those amounts.
The New Mexico senators opposed a Republican bill that would have extended the tax cuts for Americans at all income levels.
Rep. Martin Heinrich, a Democrat who is running for the Senate seat that Bingaman will retire from at the end of the year, said he also would have voted to let the tax cuts expire for households earning $250,000 or more.
Former Rep. Heather Wilson, a Republican challenging Heinrich for the Senate seat, said she would have voted to extend the tax breaks.
The legislation passed the Democratic-controlled Senate 51-48. It is not expected to clear the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Bingaman called the bill he voted for a “sensible proposal.”
“While these tax cuts benefit nearly all American families, the greatest benefit will be felt by those who need it most: the middle class,” Bingaman said, adding that fewer than 2 percent of American families earn more than $250,000 annually.
“The average New Mexico family of four makes less than $45,000 a year, and extending tax cuts for them is critical,” Udall said. “The bill we passed today would benefit 98 percent of New Mexico families and businesses to help keep our economy moving forward.”
Wilson said failing to extend tax cuts for high earners would jeopardize New Mexico jobs.
“This tax increase on small businesses that Congressman Heinrich supports will cause another 4,300 New Mexicans to lose their jobs, which is why I oppose it,” Wilson said.
Wilson’s campaign said that number comes from a study prepared by the Independent Community Bankers of America, the National Federation of Independent Business, the S Corporation Association, and the United States Chamber of Commerce.
Heinrich’s campaign and the White House disagree with the job-loss estimate. A Heinrich aide pointed out that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has purchased television ads attacking Heinrich and that SAFE PAC and Safe Trust PAC — affiliated with the National Federation of Independent Business — contributed to Wilson’s campaign.
“There are several reasons that we must end the Bush tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, but chief among them is the simple reason that we can’t afford it,” Heinrich said. “We followed Heather Wilson and George W. Bush down that road already, and New Mexico’s middle class paid the price.”