Senate transportation bill would restore commuter tax benefit

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Because Congress did not extended the provision, which expired on Jan. 1, before the end of last year, the limit was reduced to $125 at the beginning of 2012.

A union that represents employees of numerous federal agencies and has been sharply critical of the House GOP transportation bill, the Washington, D.C.-based National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), said the renewal of the commuter tax benefit in the Senate's version of the measure should become law.

"NTEU is a strong advocate for a return to parity in these two components of the transit subsidy since the mass transit portion was permitted by Congress to revert to $125 per month at the end of 2011 while the parking benefit increased to $240 per month," NTEU President Colleen Kelly said in a news release Thursday.

"The mass transit commuter benefit provides much-needed relief in the form of reduced commuting costs for many working people, including tens of thousands of federal employees who rely on public transportation to get to and from work," Kelly continued. "Many of these employees, already subject to a two-year pay freeze, are struggling in the current economic climate, and a reduction in these benefits is imposing a severe financial burden on them."

The American Public Transportation Association, which is also based in Washington, derided the funding cut in the House transportation bill, saying "this proposal seeks to undo nearly 30 years of overwhelming bipartisan support for dedicated federal investment in public transportation."

"It would erode the nation’s multimodal transportation system that provides both jobs and access to jobs for scores of Americans," APTA President Michael Melaniphy said in a statement. "H.R. 3864 proposes to replace a reliable, ongoing funding source for public transportation investment with a one-time appropriation. This would leave public transportation without any federal funding source beyond 2016, truncating transit’s ability to maintain and grow safe, reliable and equitable mobility options for millions of Americans.”
 
APTA has called on Congress to extend the commuter tax benefit, calling the decrease a tax hike on public transportation users.