On January 1, transit commuters across the nation lost an important tax benefit. While drivers can deduct up to $240 in monthly commuting expenses from their pre-tax income, transit riders can now only deduct $125. In Albany, the Senate was quick to partially rectify the problem by passing a bill (S2728-C) that reinstated the benefit on the state level.
Unfortunately, the state Assembly has dragged its feet. The lower chamber’s “same as” bill (A 6175-B) is currently stuck in the Ways and Means Committee, and the bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, is determined to get the bill moving. “This bill is environmentally friendly, very important to get people off the roads and put them on mass transit…I’m going to fight until I get the bill,” Assemblyman Weisenberg told Long Island’s News 12.
As Assemblyman Weisenberg and his allies work to pass the bill, it’s important to keep some of its strongest points in mind:
- The bill doesn’t add bureaucracy. The current, reduced federal benefit of $125 per month for transit riders will continue to be processed normally for federal and state taxes, and the lost benefit (the $115 per month difference between the transit commuter tax benefit and the driver’s tax benefit) can be claimed by the taxpayer on his or her New York State tax return.
- Transit riders throughout the state will benefit. Employers and commuters in Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, and Utica save money through this benefit, not to mention those in the New York City metro area. In fact, New York State itself provides these benefits to its employees, as well as key unions.
- The bill could save New York a lot of money. By adding an incentive to use transit, the state keeps added traffic off of its roads, and fewer cars means less expensive road maintenance. Furthermore, transit use pays other dividends, like cleaner air and healthier communities. Improving the bottom line of employers and employees means more cash in their pockets, and that will get our economy going again.