U.S. avoids fiscal cliff

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By The Staff

New Mexico delegation split along party lines late Tuesday night as the House of Representatives passed the so-called fiscal cliff agreement.

Democrats Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján voted for the agreement, while Republican Steve Pearce voted against it.

Luján voted in support of a compromise plan to resolve the fiscal cliff by avoiding an income tax hike on middle-class families, extending unemployment benefits, and preventing arbitrary spending cuts that could harm the national laboratories.

“Like many New Mexicans, I am disappointed with how this process played out during a Congress that has created one manufactured crisis after another.  This plan is far from perfect and I do not support all of its elements, however, it represents a compromise that protects middle-class families in New Mexico from seeing their income taxes increase and it ensures that those struggling to find work during this difficult time will continue to have support,”  Luján said.

 “In addition, the extension of important tax credits will support hard-working families, help young adults afford college, and support a growing renewable energy industry.  Finally, while I would have preferred a long-term solution to the sequester’s arbitrary budget cuts that I have opposed from the beginning, this plan will prevent these cuts from taking place immediately — threatening the vitality of our national labs and our nation’s competitiveness.”

LANL also issued a statement this morning.

 “While it’s still too early to know exactly how “sequestration” will be resolved, the laboratory will continue to methodically and conservatively

manage spending and staffing levels through its Laboratory Integrated Stewardship Council (LISC).

“The laboratory remains committed to its core mission, the safety, security, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear deterrent. The lab will continue to work together with NNSA as we progress through FY13 and prepare for FY14 budget planning.

Under the plan, the Bush tax cuts will expire on individuals making more than $400,000 and couples making more than $450,000; unemployment benefits will be extended for a year; and arbitrary spending cuts through the sequester will be delayed for two months.

Other key provisions of the plan include:

• A permanent fix to the Alternative Minimum Tax to prevent tax increases on middle-class families;

• An extension of the wind production tax credit, child tax credit and American Opportunity Tax Credit that helps families pay for college;

• Preventing a 27 percent cut for doctors who treat Medicare patients;

• Preventing milk prices from rising sharply; and

• Blocking a pay raise for members of Congress.

Pearce voted against the Senate’s package of tax increases for Americans and small businesses. 

“I cannot support this or any plan that doesn’t provide a solution,” Pearce said. “Washington doesn’t have a tax problem, it has a spending problem. The President has said we shouldn’t raise taxes in a recession, because he understands that no matter who we tax, it will slow our economy without fixing our debt problem. Still, this is exactly what he proposes we do.

“The House has already passed numerous bills to avert the Fiscal Cliff. We have given the president and the Senate the opportunity to take steps toward solving our debt crisis, while making sure that the damaging impact of sequestration and tax increases are avoided. Instead of acting in the same spirit, the senate and the president want to raise taxes and continue the federal spending spree.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) issued the following statement after the Senate voted 89-8 on a measure to avert the fiscal cliff:

“I remain disillusioned with the short-term nature of the deal that came through the Senate last night, but ultimately felt we had to pass it. We managed to make progress on middle-class tax cuts, wind energy tax incentives and unemployment insurance, but squandered an opportunity to implement a long-term vision to deal with the debt and deficit.

“Instead, the bill we passed kicked the can down a very short road to delay deep federal budget cuts that are slated to begin today. That road ends in a couple months at another sequestration showdown just as the debt limit is reached and the budget resolution expires.

 “My strong preference remains a more comprehensive agreement that protects federal jobs and vulnerable families in New Mexico immediately. The next agreement needs to do just that.”