On January 31, 2012, the leader of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) called on Congress to approve legislation that would permanently establish parity between the parking and mass transit portions of the employee transportation benefit.
At the same time, NTEU president Colleen M. Kelley urged the Senate Finance Committee to include a provision to reinstate such parity in any package of tax extenders.
The S. 1034 – Commuter Benefits Equity Act of 2011, introduced by Senator Charles Schumer, would permanently establish parity between the parking and mass transit portions of the commuter benefit.
Kelley said NTEU "stands ready to do all it can to ensure this critical benefit for workers and employers is extended in the near future."
In testimony submitted to the Finance Committee, the NTEU leader said "It makes no sense for the government to provide workers using environmentally helpful mass transit a lesser benefit than those driving and parking their personal vehicles."
Parity between the two elements of the transportation benefit ended December 31, 2011, when Congress failed to extend the mass transit portion, which had previously been increased to $230 per month. Instead, it reverted to a maximum of $125 per month; the parking benefit, meanwhile, increased at the start of this year to $240 per month from $230.
In her testimony, Kelley emphasized that a higher monthly mass transit benefit would "encourage greater transit ridership – which helps lessen congestion on roadways, reduce pollution, and conserve energy."
Moreover, she said, the mass transit benefit provides tax relief for employers who offer it, since it is paid with pretax dollars. That frees up funds for employers to invest in their enterprises. She noted that in 2010, employers are estimated to have saved more than $300 million by offering this important benefit to their employees.