Photo via Flickr user John Walker
In 2009, Congress wisely increased the maximum amount an individual can set aside pre-tax for mass transit expenses to $230, equal to the benefit received by those who drive to work and park. Originally set to expire at the end of 2010, the increased allowance was extended to Dec. 31, 2011, but unfortunately that extension was temporary. Because Congress failed to act, the transit portion was cut in half – from $230 a month to $125 – when the measure expired Jan. 1, 2012. Meanwhile, the parking benefit increased to $240 a month to account for inflation.
MPC thanks Illinois Reps. Hultgren, Biggert, Lipinski, Quigley, Dold and Rush for offering an amendment to H.R. 7, the transportation reauthorization currently being debated in the U.S. House, to restore pre-tax transit benefits, making them equal to benefits for those who drive to work. Similar language to restore parity is included in the Senate bill, MAP-21.
Increasing the limit would be a smart investment that saves transit riders in the Chicago region money, especially suburban riders who have the most expensive commutes. The move also would decrease the tax burden on employers and potentially encourage more workers to ride transit – a shift that would reduce traffic congestion and our reliance on foreign oil, promote cleaner air, and generate revenue for our cash-strapped mass transit systems. As HR7 and MAP-21 continue to be hotly debated, it’s good to know our region’s lawmakers are being champions for the 2 million people who ride transit every day in metropolitan Chicago.