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American Public Transportation Association

  Coalition Letter To Chairman Ryan and Ranking Member Levin Urging the Senate Committe on Finance to Include a Provision Establishing Parity Between Parking and Transit Benefits

 7/16/2015

The Honorable Orrin Hatch
U.S. Senate
Chairman, Senate Finance Committee
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Ron Wyden
U.S. Senate
Ranking Member, Senate Finance Committee
Washington, D.C. 20510​
​​​
Dear Chairman Hatch and Ranking Member Wyden,
 
As your committee explores short-term and long-term revenue options for transportation funding, and tax extender legislation, we the undersigned urge you to include a provision that would establish parity between the parking and transit benefits. Presently, commuters who travel to work using mass transit are limited to a monthly pretax deduction of $130 per month while the maximum allowable parking benefit has risen to $250 per month. Restoration of the commuter benefit parity will immediately help millions of working Americans and their employers.

As you are likely aware, the previous Congress addressed commuter benefit parity in tax extender legislation, by retroactively extending parity through 2014. However, as a result of the month-to-month nature of the benefit, it is difficult to reinstate this benefit retroactively. Retroactive application is one of the most difficult aspects to administer for both employers and the employees using the benefit. Many employees will not have the opportunity to recoup the missed benefits from months past, making the retroactive application irrelevant. For those that do have the opportunity, employers must adjust the employees’ tax withholding, which can be complicated and expensive. Therefore, we support applying any adjustments prospectively – starting when the legislation is enacted and continuing on a permanent basis.

The current policy encourages commuters to drive to work rather than use public transportation or vanpools. In particular, this affects commuters from outlying suburbs coming into urban areas as the cost of their longer commute exceeds the current monthly pretax deduction limit for transit. There is clear evidence that the transit benefit plays a critical role in increasing vanpool and transit ridership across the country. The increased ridership also leads to less congestion and less wear and tear on our highways, which benefits all users of the transportation system.

Public policy and the tax code should not penalize commuters for use of transit and vanpools versus driving to work. Congress’ failure to permanently extend this important tax policy constitutes an increase in taxes every time they expire and sets a policy that fails commuting Americans. In addition, uncertainty in the monthly deduction level for the transit benefit from year-to-year creates administrative burdens for both employers and users of the benefit that makes the program difficult to manage. Lastly, instability in the benefit also hurts public transportation systems and municipalities directly with fluctuations in ridership and decreases in overall demand.

It is critical that Congress address this expired tax provision and restore common-sense policy that equalizes commuter benefits for middle class working families. As you address solvency of the Highway Trust Fund, or tax extenders legislation, we urge you to include a provision permanently equalizing the monthly transit and parking commuter benefit cap in the next reauthorization of the Highway Trust Fund.

Sincerely,

The undersigned organizations

cc: The Honorable Richard Shelby, Chairman, Committee on Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs
The Honorable Sherrod Brown, Ranking Member, Committee on Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs
The Honorable John Thune, Chairman, Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
The Honorable Bill Nelson, Ranking Member, Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
The Honorable James Inhofe, Chairman, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
The Honorable Barbara Boxer, Ranking Member, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee

128 Business Council
A Better City Transportation Management Association
AC Transit (Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District)
Allston Brighton Transportation Management Association
Amalgamated Transit Union
American Payroll Association
American Public Transportation Association
Arlington County Commuter Services
Association for Commuter Transportation
Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals
Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)
Benefit Resource Inc.
Bike New York
BWI Business Partnership
City and County of San Francisco
Commuter Services of Edina, MN
Community Transportation Association of America
Connecticut Department of Transportation
Edenred Commuter Benefit Solutions
Employers Council on Flexible Compensation
Enterprise Rideshare
Getting America to Work
Greater Valley Forge Transportation Management Association
Indiana Transportation Association
Junction Transportation Management Organization
League of American Bicyclists
MassCommute
Merrimack Valley Transportation Management Association
Metropolitan Transportation Commission (San Francisco Bay Area)
Mobility Lab
National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO)
National Resource Defense Council
New York Public Transit Association (NYPTA)
North Shore Transportation Management Association
NYPIRG/Straphangers Campaign
Regional Plan Association
Regional Transportation Authority of Northeastern Illinois
Riders Alliance
San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency
Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA)
Seaport Transportation Management Association
Sierra Club
Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA)
Transportation Alternatives
Transportation for America
Tri-State Transportation Campaign
US Chamber of Commerce
US Conference of Mayors
Utah Transit Authority (UTA)
vRide
WageWorks, Inc.
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA)​
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