Washington - Today, the middle-class tax relief package passed the U.S. Senate by a 81-19 vote. U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) voted in favor of the package, which includes income tax relief for middle class families, the protection of 1.6 million New Jerseyans from a surprise Alternative Minimum Tax hike, and critical assistance for laid off workers, among other important relief provisions.

It also includes a provision Menendez led the fight to include, which will extend a tax benefit for transit riders, as well as tax relief to spur the use of solar energy, which Menendez helped to champion.

The package must pass the House of Representatives before being sent to President Obama for his signature. Menendez released the following statement:

"Middle class families and laid-off workers are facing tough times, and my priority is to help make their lives better. The tax relief package we passed today will make a real difference in the lives of middle class families and the hardest-hit workers, and it will help our fragile economy continue to grow.

"We are not only preventing a middle class tax increase, we are actually cutting taxes for the average New Jersey family by $1,400. We are protecting 1.6 million New Jersey taxpayers from a surprise Alternative Minimum Tax hike of up to $5,600. We are ensuring that laid off workers can take care of their families until enough new jobs are available. And I am proud to have led the efforts to provide rail and bus commuters with significant tax relief and to create new jobs in the solar energy sector that we will spur with tax relief.

"It is astounding that Republicans prioritized millionaires and adopted questionable negotiating tactics to protect them, including working in lock-step to deny medical treatment for ailing 9/11 responders. But for many of us, this is not about whether or not to support tax cuts for millionaires, it is about whether we are going to stand up for the middle class, protect them from the tax increase that's looming two weeks from now and actually provide significant additional relief beyond that. This package delivers for middle class families and the hardest-hit workers, and I will continue to work to protect middle class families as we move forward."


Tax Cuts:

• Middle Class Tax Cuts: Extends tax relief of more than $3,000 for a typical working family, including doubling the value of the child tax credit (from $500 to $1000)

• Payroll Tax Cut: Creates a $120 billion payroll tax cut that is worth $1400 for the average New Jersey household ($71,000 in average income)

• Alternative Minimum Tax relief: Extends 2 years of AMT relief, protecting 1.6 million New Jerseyans from an additional tax bill of up to $5600 (Menendez has been a lead sponsor of AMT relief legislation)

• Tax relief for transit riders: Extends provision which allow commuters to receive up to $230 in transit benefits tax free (Menendez led the fight for inclusion)

• Low-Income Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit: Extends tax credit improvements that will ensure a working family with 3 children would continue to receive a tax cut of more than $2,000

• Higher Education Tax Credit: Extends the American Opportunity Tax Credit, a partially refundable tax credit worth up to $2,500 that helps 8 million students and their families cover the cost of tuition

Job Creation:

• 1603: Extends the 1603 Treasury Grant program, which has been widely credited with maintaining strong growth in the renewable energy sector in 2009 and 2010, despite the severe economic downturn and has saved tens of thousands of jobs in the wind and solar industries (Menendez helped lead the fight for inclusion)

• Unemployment insurance: A 13 month extension of federal support for 99 weeks of unemployment insurance for laid off workers -- a policy that most economists agree is one of the most effective measures to create jobs

• Tax Cuts for Business Investment: Creates the largest temporary investment incentive in American history by allowing businesses to expense all of their qualified investments in 2011. Estimates from the Treasury Department indicate this could generate more than $50 billion in additional investment in the US next year (Menendez has been a co-sponsor of legislation to create this cut)

• No Capital Gains Taxes for Certain Small Business Investment: Extends provision to encourage people to invest in start-up small businesses by completely exempting these investments from capital gains taxes (Menendez was Cosponsor of original legislative proposal)

• R & D Tax Credit: Extends the Research and Development tax credit for 2 years which incentivizes companies to create jobs in America by giving them a tax credit for qualified research spending. The R&D tax credit is truly a jobs credit with 70% or more of the credit attributable to salaries and wages of U.S. workers performing research in the United States (Menendez is a co-sponsor of legislation to make this credit permanent)

• 15 Year Depreciation for Restaurant and Retail Improvements: Extends for 2 years a provision that incentivizes restaurants to upgrade by allowing them to write off the costs faster (15 years as opposed to 39 years) (Menendez is a co-sponsor of legislation to make this credit permanent)