Transportation Benefits Gets Big Push from Senate Finance Committee
2/9/2012 11:15 AM
This week, the United States Senate Committee on Finance approved legislation that would reverse cuts to the monthly pre-tax transit benefits available to commuters who use public transportation and vanpools. If approved by Congress, the bill will restore the monthly amount that can be set aside for public transportation expenses to $240 a month, rather than $125, saving commuters annual costs of up to an additional $550 this year.
The transit benefits issue is an amendment within the Senate transportation bill, referred to as The Highway Investment, Job Creation and Economic Growth Act of 2012. It has now progressed out of four committees with bi-partisan support. The last hurdle was the Senate Finance Committee which is responsible for approving funding for the two-year, $109 billion bill.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) sponsored the amendment that would restore, and make permanent, parity between the pre-tax commuter benefits for transit and parking. When the stimulus passed in 2009, it included parity between transit and parking, but due to inaction by Congress, the transit portion was cut in half – from $230 a month to $125 – when the measure expired Jan. 1, 2012. Meanwhile, the parking benefit increased to $240 a month to account for inflation.
“We plan to use every tool available to us to see this benefit reinstated and made retroactive back to January," said Schumer. "It makes absolutely no sense to incentivize driving to work and not incentivize the use of mass transit.”
The Finance Committee was the final panel to approve the bill, clearing the way for a vote of the full Senate any time.