NY's Sen. Schumer says transit commuters should get tax benefit equal to drivers'

Mass transit commuters should get the same tax break as people who drive to work, Sen. Charles Schumer said Tuesday.

The New York Democrat said he has high hopes for a measure that would allow bus, subway and commuter rail riders to deduct up to $250 a month from their taxable income next year.

Currently, the figure is $130. Before this year it had been as high as $245, Schumer said, matching the amount drivers are permitted to deduct from income for parking expenses.

But the figure for mass transit commuters was reduced for 2014, although the drivers' break was extended. The tax breaks are available if employers participate in eligible programs.

Schumer's bill "would restore parity between commuters and drivers," the senator said at a White Plains news conference.

He predicted it would also be "a huge shot in the arm for the local economy." He said it would also help the environment and even benefit drivers by reducing traffic.

The bill would make the tax break retroactive to this year, Schumer said. And he said he plans to introduce a separate bill next year that would make it permanent, "so we don't have to go through this every year."

The senator said that although he was unable to get a similar bill through Congress last year, he believes "we're now on the precipice of getting this done."

Gene Russianoff, who leads the commuter advocacy group The Straphangers Campaign, said the tax break "is a good way to get some of our tax money back."