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Conn. Lawmakers Work To Restore Expired Commuter Tax Benefit

Passengers wait to board a Metro-North train (file/credit: DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

Passengers wait to board a Metro-North train (file/credit: DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) – Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal and New Haven Mayor Toni Harp are calling on Congress to extend a federal tax benefit for commuters who use public transportation.

Blumenthal and Harp held a news conference Monday morning in New Haven with rail and environmental advocates to discuss how the expiration of the commuter mass transit benefit affects state residents.

As WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau reported, some transit advocates are left wondering why Congress would let the tax break expire in an age when mass transit is encouraged. Instead, commuters who drive to and from work were given a break.

“I think it’s completely unfair for Congress to change the law to so significantly benefit those who drive but penalize those who take the train,” commuter advocate Jim Cameron told Schneidau. “The benefit for people to take the train has gone from $245 a month to $130 a month. But people who drive and use this to pay for parking have gone from $245 to $250 a month.”

The benefit is among a package of 55 popular tax breaks that Congress let expire last week. The House and Senate reconvened Monday following winter recess.

Blumenthal and Harp say the expiration of the tax break will cost public transit users up to $1,000 a year. When the benefit ended Dec. 31, the amount commuters can set aside to pay for their public transit costs before taxes decreased from $245 a month to $130.

Blumenthal said he is working to restore the benefit.

“What we really need is a permanent extension so we don’t have to go through this rescue exercise at the end of every year,” Blumenthal told Schneidau.

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