KENNEDY FIGHTS TO INCREASE TAX BENEFIT FOR MASSACHUSETTS PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION COMMUTERS
Amendment Would Raise Federal Tax Benefit from $105 to $200 A Month; Cover the Cost of Every Monthly T Pass; and Encourage More Employers to Offer Federal Commuting Benefit.
WASHINGTON, DC -- Senator Edward M. Kennedy today urged the Senate to accept the Schumer Amendment to the Transportation bill, which would increase the monthly amount of the employer-based federal mass transit tax benefit from $105 to $200 -- or the same level as the current federal parking benefit. A vote is expected tonight or tomorrow.
The amendment is modeled after the Commuter Benefits Equity Act, that Kennedy has cosponsored in the Senate, and that Congressman Jim McGovern of Worcester has championed in the House of Representatives.
"It's high time Congress eliminated the disparity between parking and mass transit benefits," Kennedy said. "This amendment could help up to 194,000 T commuters who buy monthly passes today, and convince more Massachusetts employers to offer the benefit to their workers. It will help get commuters off our clogged highways, and lower commuting expenses."
"Improving tax benefits for mass transit commuters is an idea whose time has come," Rep. Jim McGovern said. "It's good for employees and employers alike. Encouraging more people to use mass transit will ease congestion on our highways and improve our air quality. I'm grateful to Senator Kennedy and Senator Schumer for their tremendous leadership on this issue."
Senator Kennedy added, "today, President Bush spoke about energy policy. Well, improving mass transit is an energy policy the President should support, and I hope the White House will endorse this amendment that will encourage thousands of more people to use public transportation and reduce the wear and tear on our roads."
At the current time, 194,000 of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's (MBTA) 1.1 million daily commuters purchase monthly T passes. The highest priced monthly T packages often exceed $140 for commuter rail passengers from outlying cities. Some of those monthly fares are: Brockton $149; Fitchburg $198; Gloucester $191; Haverhill $191; Lawrence $181; Lowell $181; Middleboro/Lakeville $198; and Worcester $198.
By increasing the amount that employers can offer their employees on a tax free basis to $200 -- higher than even the most expensive monthly T passes -- this amendment would allow employers to provide an extremely valuable benefit to workers at very low cost to the employer. Employers can also offer the benefit to cover the costs of employee vanpooling, which is an effective means of commuting in areas underserved by public transportation services.
According to most recent figures from the MBTA, companies purchased an average of 88,000 monthly passes for Massachusetts commuters' in January, February, and March of this year. Employers seeking additional information on the federal tax credit are welcome to contact MassRides, which helps employers establish commuting programs for workers.
MassRides can be reached at www.commute.com or 1-888-4COMMUTE.
According to a recent study, Boston-area commuters sit idling in unnecessary gridlock an average of 51 hours a year, forcing each, on average, to waste 30 gallons of gas annually. Also in the past decade, vehicle registrations are up 42% in the City of Boston, and 26% in Metro-Boston.