Rep. Grimm Testifies in Support of Commuter Transit Benefit Parity
Today, Rep. Michael G. Grimm (R,C-NY) testified before the House Ways and Means Committee to advocate that the expired commuter transit benefits be renewed and included in any tax extenders legislation considered by Congress. Rep. James McGovern (D-MA) testified along with Rep. Grimm, requesting that if funds are not available to bring both the transit and parking benefits to the current previous $240 level, they be restored at $200 per month for both public transit users and drivers – an amount that is budget neutral.
“With rising gas prices and highly congested streets, we should be encouraging New Yorkers to use public transportation, not push them back into their cars,” said Rep. Grimm. “Without parity, we have instead created an incentive to drive, making our roads more congested and our air more polluted. I believe that it is only fair that the pre-tax benefit be equal, no matter how one commutes to work, and that is why I have taken a lead role in ensuring that parity is restored.”
Before January 1, 2012, both public transportation commuters and drivers received a pre-tax benefit up to $230 per month for the cost of commuting to and from work. Once they expired, the benefit for drivers increased to $240, whereas the benefit for public transportation users was reduced to $125. Rep. Grimm is pushing for parity at the $200 level for both.
Before the transit benefit expired, it provided average savings as high as $1,000 a year. Now that it has been cut to $125, the typical working family will pay up to an additional $500 a year. It also provides a benefit to employers, who receive a payroll tax savings of 7.65% per participant. Finally, with gas prices on the rise and our streets overly-congested, parity would encourage the use of public transportation - reducing traffic congestion and pollution from cars.
Rep. Grimm has been a leader on this issue as the lead Republican on Rep. McGovern’s Commuter Benefits Equity Act (H.R. 2412), which creates parity at $230. On February 9th, he joined Reps. McGovern and Blumenauer as the lead Republican on a letter to House leadership asking for the swift passage of legislation that includes the $200 in benefits. This letter drew broad bipartisan support, with over 107 members signing.