U.S. Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL-13th) today joined Reps. Mark Kirk (R-IL-10) and Peter Roskam (R-IL-06) to announce new legislation that will provide relief from high gas prices to thousands of Chicagoland residents. The three suburban Chicago legislators will team up this week to introduce the Creating Opportunities to Motivate Mass-transit Utilization to Encourage Ridership (COMMUTER) Act, which provides tax incentives for businesses to boost employee utilization of public transportation.
"We're looking for ways to relieve the pressure on folks who are suffering sticker shock every time they go to the gas pump," said Biggert. "This is a common-sense and timely solution that will help more commuters get to work without breaking the bank."
The COMMUTER Act offers employers a 50 percent tax credit for all transit benefits provided to employees, up to $115 per employee per month. Current law only allows businesses a tax deduction for the purchase of transit benefits for their employees. Under the COMMUTER Act, employees could receive up to $1,380 in free mass transit each year, with the employer receiving $690 in tax credits per employee.
"By boosting the incentive to offer transit benefits, this bill will ensure that more employees are given the option to leave their car at home," said Biggert. "And the more people fill up at $4.00 a gallon, the more interested they become in alternatives like mass transit."
A new study by BusinessWeek Research Services estimates that 53 percent of employees who don't receive transit benefits would participate in such a program were it offered by their employer. According to the American Public Transportation Association, mass transit use in the U.S. saves an annual 1.4 billion gallons of gasoline. By increasing utilization of public transportation, the bill's sponsors aim to reduce energy costs, alleviate congestion on the roadways, and protect the environment.
"I honestly think that we are nearing breakthroughs on a number of cutting-edge energy technologies," said Biggert, a senior member of the House Science and Technology Committee. "Things like cellulosic fuels, plug-in hybrid vehicles, and hydrogen fuel cells are just around the corner, but first we need to help families get through these rough times."