Coalition urges Congress to retain transit commuter benefit

Posted on October 29, 2013

Getting America to Work (GATW), a nationwide coalition advocating for federal investment in the nation’s bus and rail transit systems, is urging members of Congress to keep public transportation affordable for 2.7 million American families by stopping scheduled cuts to the tax-free benefit for commuters using public transportation to get to work.

Current law allows workers and employers to pay up to $245 in monthly transit costs with tax-exempt dollars. This is the same maximum tax-free amount allowed for a similar benefit for those who drive to work and pay for parking. However, on Jan. 1, the transit benefit maximum is scheduled to be cut almost in half, to $125 per month, while the parking benefit will remain at a maximum of $245.

“Keeping parity between commuter benefits for transit and parking is nonpartisan, common sense policy,” said Joe Costello, executive director of the Northeastern Illinois Regional Transportation Authority and Chairman of Getting America to Work. “Transit benefits encourage more workers to use public transportation, reducing traffic congestion, the demand for gasoline and air pollution. I urge Congress to preserve transit-parking benefit parity.”

Now that the government shutdown has ended, Congress is turning its attention to a long-term budget deal. Two bills, H.R. 2288 and S. 1116, have been introduced to preserve transit parity. If these bills are not passed or included as part of a budget deal, workers who rely on public transit will have their maximum pre-tax benefits for commuting cut in half on Jan., 1, 2014.

“We must take positive action to preserve pre-tax benefits for those who rely on public transportation to get to work,” said Stephen F. Lalli, executive director of the Oklahoma Transit Association in Oklahoma City. “The scheduled $120-per-month disparity between benefits for drivers and those who use public transit is unacceptable and unfair. Congress must stop the scheduled transit benefit cut.”

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