Schumer Says Transit Benefits Will Be in Highway Bill

Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, is calling on the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives to pass legislation including expanded tax benefits for transit riders that lapsed Dec. 31.

Last year workers were able to set aside $230 a month before taxes to cover the cost of their transit commutes. Since expiring on Dec. 31, the benefit has been capped at $125 a month. Schumer has attached a provision to the highway bill the Senate is considering this week that would raise the monthly benefit to $240 through 2012 and make it retroactive to Jan. 1.

Schumer, the Senate’s third-ranking Democrat, is scheduled to discuss the transit benefit in an appearance this morning at Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan.

“Today is a huge victory for the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers that rely on the commuter tax break to reduce their commuting costs and I’m urging the House to now do its part and pass this crucial legislation,” Schumer said in a statement before the event.

Workers already can set aside $240 before taxes to pay for some parking expenses. Schumer has said the higher parking benefit encourages employees to use their cars to get to work instead of taking transit.

His comments today come as House Republican leaders are showing more openness to discussing transit benefits. They agreed last week to abandon a proposal in their version of the highway bill that would have ended guaranteed federal funding for mass transit.

House Republicans haven’t been able to agree on the size and scope of a highway bill. Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said March 6 that using the Senate bill as a framework for a House measure is an “option” if the impasse continues.

The Senate transportation bill is S. 1813.

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