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Schumer pushes for commuter tax extension

New York Sen. Charles SchumerChuck SchumerNY Times beclowns itself by normalizing court-packing 'to balance the conservative majority' The first Southern state legalizes marijuana — what it means nationally H.R. 1/S. 1: Democrats defend their majorities, not honest elections MORE (D) wants Congress to get on board with an extension of a tax benefit for public transit users. 

Schumer suggested that Thursday that lawmakers should use a package of pending tax breaks to extend a provision from the 2009 economic stimulus package that allowed public transit users to set aside $230 per month before taxes for commuting expenses. Because Congress has not yet extended the provision, which expired on Jan. 1, the limit was reduced to $125 at the beginning of the new year. 

The Staten Island Advance newspaper reported Thursday that Schumer called that decrease unacceptable. 

"When the clock struck 12 on New Year's Eve, the federal tax break that allowed hundreds of thousands of commuters in New York and tens of thousands on Staten Island to pay for their transit benefits with pre-tax dollars of up to $230 a month expired," Schumer said in a news conference, according to the report.

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Schumer said that Congress should revisit the issue when it resumes a regular schedule later this month and lawmakers should make any extension retroactive to Jan. 1.

"The more people who use mass transit and don't use their cars, the better off the drivers are who will have a commute with less traffic," he said, according to the newspaper report. "It particularly affects New York because we have more mass transit than anywhere else, but it fits in the theme of a middle-class tax break."

Public transportation advocates are pushing Congress to heed Schumer's advice, telling riders to contact their representatives. 

“This drop in benefits will cause a dramatic increase in commuting costs for public transit riders,” American Public Transportation Association President Michael Melaniphy said this week in a statement. 

“At a time when Congress and the Administration have resisted revisiting gasoline taxes (user fees) to support much needed investments in our nation's transportation infrastructure, it is ironic that they are willing to effectively raise taxes on public transit users,” Melaniphy continued.  “Reducing the benefits for public transit riders at the same time that tax benefits are increased for auto usage is a significant divergence from this country's balanced approach to transportation."