Unions to budget writers: Restore transit tax break

Unions for federal government employees and transportation workers are pushing budget writers in Congress to extend tax benefits that have given to people who ride public transportation systems to work.

Transit riders were allowed to set aside $245 of their monthly incomes before taxes for their commutes to work, but the amount was reduced to $130 on Jan. 1.

The transit tax break is popular with federal workers, many of whom ride the Washington, D.C. Metrorail subway system to their offices.

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A group of 12 labor unions are urging the top budget writers in the House and Senate to quickly restore the transit tax to its pre-2014 levels.

"As the leaders of the committee of jurisdiction on tax issues, we urge you to support efforts to restore the public transportation tax benefit which was unfairly and dramatically decreased by almost 50 percent at the beginning of this year," the unions wrote to Reps. David Camp (R-Mich.) and Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) and Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

"The federal transit tax benefit allows employers to use pre-tax dollars to pay for their employees’ transit expenses," the labor groups continued. "This program benefits employees and employers alike, reducing payroll taxes
paid by businesses by about $225 annually per worker and saving commuters as much as $2,940 annually on their transit costs. We have always supported this benefit as a necessary tool for ensuring all Americans have access to safe and affordable commutes."

The transportation and federal workers' unions decried the fact that tax break for transit riders was allowed to lapse amount drivers who participate in the federal commuter benefit program are allowed to set aside was increased from $240 to $250 at the beginning of the year.

"This disparity makes no sense and runs counter to the promotion of a multimodal transportation system," the unions wrote. "At a time when many Americans spend more on transportation costs than health care, education,
or food, the transit benefit is extremely important, not only to workers but to employers and the entire economy. We urge you to take swift action and extend the federal transit benefit as soon as possible."

The letter was signed by the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU); American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE); American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); American Federation of Teachers (AFT); Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS); International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW); National Conference of Firemen and Oilers, SEIU (NCFO, SEIU); SMART-Transportation Division; Transport Workers Union of America (TWU); Transportation Communications Union/ IAM (TCU); Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) and UNITE HERE!