Cost Estimate Supports Transit Benefit Parity, Backers Say

By Marc Heller

Supporters of equal tax treatment for employer-provided mass transit and parking benefits said a recent government cost estimate bolsters their case for Congress to include the provision in a year-end deal renewing tax credits and deductions.

The congressional Joint Committee on Taxation said in August that setting the benefit limit at $235 a month for both parking and mass transit—up from the current $130 for transit and down from $250 for parking—would generate $131 million for the next decade, boosting the probability that congressional negotiators will accept parity, lawmakers and others pushing for parity said at a Nov. 12 news conference.

Transportation benefits are among more than 50 tax provisions Congress is to debate whether to renew before the end of 2014. Those provisions appear poised to be used for negotiations as lawmakers address final priorities for the year—possibly in a big spending bill that covers programs across the federal government.

Prospects for Enactment

Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and James McGovern (D-Mass.) said they believe that with broader tax changes off the agenda for 2014, a revised commuter benefit has a higher probability of passage. The news conference was among the first Capitol news conferences on Congress's first day in session after the elections.

Until the end of 2013, when commuting parity expired, the monthly limit on the benefit amount that could be excluded from taxation for employees was $245 for both parking and mass transit.

Parity helps all commuters by making trains more affordable and reducing traffic, supporters said at the news conference. It is backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities, among other organizations.

The issue has often pitted lawmakers from New York and other big cities with high usage of public transit against lawmakers from areas without big cities where driving is the primary means people get to work.

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