Chairman Tiberi, Ranking Member Neal and Members of the Subcommittee -- Thank you for the opportunity to testify today in support of extending parity for the transit benefit. As you know, parity expired at the end of the 2011 calendar year.
Currently, commuters who drive to work and park are eligible for up to $240 in pre-tax benefits per month from their employer while commuters who take mass transit such as commuter rail, subways, buses or vanpools are only eligible for up to $125 a month. Commuters who drive and park were actually eligible for an increase in their monthly parking benefit at the start of 2012 because of an automatic cost-of-living adjustment.
At a time of high gas prices and when many families are still struggling financially from the recession, it makes no sense to penalize commuters who utilize mass transit.
This Congress, I was proud to reintroduce H.R. 2412, the Commuter Benefits Equity Act, to make permanent transit benefit parity. I am proud to say this bill has 74 bipartisan cosponsors.
I want to recognize two of my colleagues, Congressman Grimm and Congressman Blumenauer, for their efforts to extend the transit benefit. In December 2011, we organized a bipartisan letter to House leaders to extend the transit benefit in the payroll tax cut package. It was signed by 50 Members.
Then again in February, we organized another bipartisan letter - this time signed by 72 Members - urging that the transit benefit be extended in the continuing payroll discussions. In recognition of the extremely difficult fiscal times in which we find ourselves, our letter proposed establishing parity at the revenue-neutral maximum level of $200 per month for parking and transit benefits.
The federal transit benefit is a perfect example of how targeted and effective federal policy can benefit both employees -- as a way to save money on their commute -- and employers -- as an attractive fringe benefit to offer their workers. Employees and employers receive a pre-tax benefit, resulting in sound fiscal savings for both.
It simply makes sense to re-establish parity between parking and mass transit benefits. It's good for employers, good for employees, good for the environment and helps take cars off our congested roads. I am hopeful that you will restore parity in a tax extenders package and I welcome any questions that you may have.