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Advocates Call for 'Parity' in Commuter Tax Benefit

Thirty-two groups and individuals from the tri-state area say the permanent pre-tax contribution for transit should be equal to the same for parking for motorists.

Commuters along a Metro-North Railroad line (Patch file photo)
Commuters along a Metro-North Railroad line (Patch file photo)
Saying a new tax structure is hitting commuters in the pocketbooks, advocates from the tri-state area—including the Fairfield County Business Council and Federated Conservationists of Westchester—are calling for Congress to restore what they call “parity in the commuter tax benefit.”

Starting Jan. 1, the maximum pre-tax contribution for transit fell to $130 from $245 per month, the advocates say—a change that could signal higher fares and services cuts as fewer commuters can afford rides, according to a press release put out on behalf of 32 individuals and organizations.

“As Congress reconvenes in Washington for its first days of work in 2014, restoring parity to the commuter tax benefit for transit riders must be at the top of its to-do list,” the press release says. “With an Appropriations Bill a top priority for Congress, there is an opportunity to restore the parity in the bill, and make the benefit permanent, in the next few weeks."

Groups and individuals listed as advocates include the Connecticut Association for Community Transportation, Connecticut Fund for the Environment, Connecticut League of Conservation Voters and Norwalk CT Mayor Harry Rilling.

According to the press release, more cars could end up on the road as a result of the change in the pre-tax contribution combined with an increase in the benefit for parking, from $5 to $250 per month. That “amounts to a federally-endorsed transportation policy that incentivizes driving, leading to more cars on the region’s already congested and deteriorating roads,” the advocates say.

The call for restoration of the transit pre-tax contribution comes as the president of Metro-North Railroad steps down following a difficult year that included derailments in Connecticut and New York and passenger fatalities. The resignation of the rail’s president, Howard Permut, has been applauded by some elected officials saying the service has failed to keep up standards of safety and reliability during his tenure.

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