WASHINGTON – A recent television advertisement for Heather Wilson’s U.S. Senate campaign accused her opponent, Rep. Martin Heinrich, of voting to raise taxes 22 times and supporting a $500 billion reduction in Medicare spending.
The former Republican congresswoman and the Democratic incumbent in the 1st Congressional District are facing off for the seat of retiring Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.
A Journal review of the tax increase claim found that Heinrich cast votes multiple times against legislation that would have extended personal income tax cuts enacted under former President George W. Bush.
If the tax cuts are allowed to expire, personal income taxes will rise. But Heinrich also has voted in support of legislation that would maintain existing income tax rates for Americans making less than $200,000 per year and families making less than $250,000 per year, while raising taxes on those making more.
The claim that Heinrich “voted for higher taxes 22 times” draws on an array of votes on different issues. More than half the votes are associated with Heinrich’s position on the Bush-era income tax cuts.
Three of the tax hike votes stem from Heinrich’s opposition to a budget blueprint introduced in the U.S. House by Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, a representative from Wisconsin. That budget plan would maintain Bush-era tax cuts.
Four more of the votes the Wilson ad portray as being in favor of “higher taxes” stem from Heinrich’s vote for the Affordable Care Act. According to FactCheck.Org, the law includes a Medicare payroll tax of 0.9 percent on income over $200,000 for individuals or $250,000 for couples, and a 3.8 percent tax on investment income for those earning that much. The law also includes other taxes, such as an excise tax on the manufacturers of certain medical devices and on indoor tanning services.
Heinrich also voted against bills that included repeals of the estate and marriage taxes.
In connection with the Medicare , Heinrich voted for the Affordable Care Act, which the Wilson ad references in its $500 billion Medicare cut claim. However, the law aims only to slow the future growth of Medicare spending. It doesn’t cut from the basic Medicare program, and the spending reductions would come at the expense of health care providers, not recipients.
The Washington Post, the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation and FactCheck.Org, also nonpartisan, all have found that claims about the Affordable Care Act cutting $500 billion from Medicare are misleading.
“Medicare spending would continue to rise, just not as much,” FactCheck.org says on its website. “The law stipulates that guaranteed Medicare benefits won’t be reduced, and it adds some new benefits, such as improved coverage for pharmaceuticals.”
“Most of the reductions come in the future growth of payments to hospitals and other providers (not physicians), and a reduction in payments to private Medicare Advantage plans to bring those payments in line with traditional Medicare,” the website says.
— This article appeared on page A6 of the Albuquerque Journal