Restoring Commuter Benefits Faces Long Road as Members Spar

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After recent efforts failed to bring benefits for commuting via public transportation in line with benefits for driving, advocates say they will continue to push for transit parity in upcoming tax legislation negotiations, but efforts could be derailed by a disagreement between lawmakers. Supporters, including some members of Congress, public transit providers, and employee benefits providers, were hoping to reestablish parity between mass transit and parking fringe benefits as part of the surface transportation reauthorization measure (H.R. 4348), but the package cleared by Congress June 29 did not include the provision. For 2011, the mass transit subsidy allowed employers to withhold up to $230 a month pre-tax from workers' pay, reducing the cost of using buses, trains, and other commuting options for workers, but that amount dropped to $125 on Jan. 1 after Congress failed to extend dozens of temporary tax provisions.