Bi-Partisan Lawmakers Push Permanent Tax Equality for Transit Commuters

Right now, transit riders get the same commuter tax benefits as drivers: $245 a month in pre-tax income to spend to get to work. But next year, straphangers might go back to second-class status, getting just $125 for their ride.

A new bill would save transit riders as much as drivers on their commute. Photo: WJLA

Four members of Congress, two Democrats and two Republicans, have stepped up to make sure that doesn’t happen — next year or ever. Yesterday, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Michael Grimm (R-NY), James McGovern (D-MA), and Peter King (R-NY) introduced the Transit Parity Act, which would make tax credit parity permanent for drivers and public transportation commuters.

Rather than have to fight it out every year, transit riders and advocates for sustainable transportation would know that our equality is enshrined in law.

The “Transit Parity Act” caps both the transit and parking benefits at $220, making the change deficit-neutral. 

“With rising gas prices and highly congested streets, we should be encouraging New Yorkers to use more public transportation, not push them back into their cars,” said Rep. Grimm in a statement.

“By helping protect commuters’ choices, and preserving equity between those who drive and those who take transit or vanpool,” said Rep. Blumenauer, “we can avoid a tax increase on millions of families, and continue to give workers the option to use a transportation mode that increases economic productivity, reduces congestion, and is friendlier to the environment.”

Parity between the tax benefit enjoyed by drivers and transit riders first became law when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed in 2009. Parity continued through 2010 and 2011, but Congress let it expire for all of 2012. The fiscal cliff deal early this year saw a return to parity – retroactively, even, if you can figure it out. If the Transit Parity Act passes, we can stop fighting this battle every year.