Maui Business

Hirono Joins Business Leaders in Support of Commuter Relief Act

May 11, 2011, 3:04 PM HST
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Congresswoman Mazie Hirono. File photo.

By Sonia Isotov

Today, Reps. Mazie Hirono, Earl Blumenauer (OR), and Jim Moran (MA) were joined by leaders from the business and transportation communities in unveiling the “Commuter Relief Act of 2011.”

If passed, this bill will offer relief and additional incentives to individuals and business who use alternative transportation modes, are self-employed, use employer paid parking, and van pools, to name a few, and encourage more businesses to provide such options and take advantage of the tax relief.

 “Commuters in my district pay more for a gallon of gas than any other place in the country—on average almost $5 dollars,” said Congresswoman Hirono, in a statement released today by her office. “At the same time, Big Oil just raked in $35 billion in profits this last quarter while still receiving $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies. That’s simply not right. We should give those tax benefits to the people who need them most—businesses and their employees who commute to work.  This bill will do that and expand options for commuters, which is why I’m proud to cosponsor this legislation.”

“With workers and families getting clobbered by high gas prices, the Commuter Relief Act offers immediate, affordable alternatives to driving that will put money back in Americans’ pockets,” said Congressman Blumenauer (OR) in the same statement. “Now is the time to set aside gimmicky rhetoric that promises the impossible: lower oil prices from drilling for the tiny amount of oil we have here in the United States. The only way to meaningfully protect Americans from spikes in gas prices is to make alternatives to driving more convenient and affordable.”

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The Act will expand a series of tax credits directed at individuals and employers and contains the following specific provisions, as provided in the statement released:

  • Transit Equity: Sets the uniform dollar cap for all transportation fringe benefits to $200 a month. Currently, the permanent cap is $230 for the parking benefit, and there is a temporary extension that sets the transit cap at the same level, until the end of the calendar year 2011, at which point the transit cap will drop to $130.
  • Self Employed Extension of Transportation Fringe Benefits: Allows individuals who are self-employed to receive transit fringe benefits for commuting done for work purposes
  • Parking Cashout: Requires employers who offer a parking transportation fringe benefit to employees to also offer employees the option to take cash instead, reducing the incentive to drive instead of taking alternative transportation.
  • VanPool Credit: Creates a 10% tax credit for expenditures on vanpool vehicles and services, which will provide an incentive for employers and employees to share their commutes.
  • MultiModal Transportation: Allows individuals to combine their bike benefit with other transportation fringe benefits as long as they fall under the $200 cap (for example, individuals can use the $40 bike credit and still collect up to $160 of their public transit fringe benefit).
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