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Commuters could save $$$ under Schumer bill

Schumer said a mass-transit tax-allowance program already in effect in New York City "is a great...

By Philip Newman

Workers who commute on subways, buses or trains would get a tax break worth $700 a year under legislation proposed by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Schumer said a mass-transit tax-allowance program already in effect in New York City "is a great idea but it is undermined by the fact that we provide a parking benefit that is much more generous. My proposal rewards commuters who choose mass transit and makes drivers think twice before getting in their cars."

Motorists who drive to work and pay to park in the city already get a tax break on up to $2,100 of their income.

The bill would permit employees to set aside as much as $2,100 annually in pretax earnings if the money pays for mass transit en route to their jobs.

Schumer’s plan, introduced in the Senate as the Commuter Benefits Equity Act of 2001, would raise the federal set-aside for commuter parking from the current $65 a month to $175 per month, or $2,100 a year. The average commuter would save an average of $700 annually, Schumer said.

At present, those who use mass transit can deduct no more than $780 in pretax earnings for commuting expenses under the federal program.

Schumer said the measure is also sponsored by four Republican members of the Senate - John Warner of Virginia, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and George Voinovich of Ohio.

He said the proposal has broad bipartisan support, along with backing from environmental organizations including the Sierra Club and Environmental Defense, and from the Conference of Mayors.

Schumer said his bill would also help drivers by reducing the number of cars on roadways.

“If we can make mass transit financially attractive, many commuters will be more than happy to leave their car keys at home,” Schumer said.

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