Federal Tax Code Stacked Against Transit, Congressmen Say
Crain's Chicago Business
Six Chicago-area members of Congress say current tax law discriminates against those who use public transit to get to work and are asking their leadership to do something about it.
In a joint letter to the chairman and ranking minority member of the House Ways and Means Committee, the six note that those who drive are able to exempt up to $250 a month from taxes if the money is used to pay for parking, but those who ride Metra, Pace or the Chicago Transit Authority are limited to a maximum of $130 a month. (Read the letter below.)
The transit and driving exemptions used to be the same, but when Congress failed to act last year the transit break dropped from $245 a month back to the prior $130 figure, while the parking exemption rose $5 a month.
Loss of the exemption costs riders as much as $100 a month in additional taxes, said the six, all Democrats.
"The transit tax benefit is too critical to American workers and local economies all over the country to forgo including it" in pending legislation, the letter says. "These incentives encourage more workers to use public transportation, contributing to reductions in highway congestion and wear and tear on our roads."
Republicans who run the House say the break was not extended because of budget pressures. The six writers of the letter say equity could be achieved and the program completely financed if the parking tax break was "slightly" lowered — to $220 a month.
Though all six signers are Democrats, only two are from Chicago, Dan Lipinski and Mike Quigley. The other four represent primarily suburban districts: Brad Schneider, Bill Foster, Tammy Duckworth and Jan Schakowsky. Perhaps that will be enough to draw backing from a local GOP congressman or two later.
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