Washington, DC — Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4) issued the following statement on legislation Congress cleared this week to retroactively increase a tax benefit that helps thousands of employees in Connecticut save money on their commute to and from work. Himes has pushed to restore and increase the benefit, which was included in a larger package (H.R. 5771) that allows individuals and businesses to claim dozens of lapsed tax breaks for the current 2014 tax year. The bill now awaits President Obama’s signature.

"The commuter tax benefit helps thousands of Fairfield County families save money on their commute,” Himes said. “With Metro-North fares set to rise again next year, this benefit has become even more important for Southwest Connecticut residents who depend on mass transit and already face a high cost of living. While I'm pleased Congress provided a retroactive increase, I’ll keep pushing for a long-term solution so that commuters aren’t forced to deal with this uncertainty every year. We ought to be encouraging – not discouraging – people to use public transportation so we can reduce traffic on our roads and improve our environment, and that's what this tax benefit does.”

The bill retroactively increases the monthly mass-transit tax benefit to $250 per month for 2014, putting it on par with the current monthly parking benefit. The mass-transit provision expired at the end of 2013, reducing the pre-tax savings from $240 to just $130 in 2014. Meanwhile, commuters who drive to work have been eligible to set aside as much as $250 per month, up from $245 in 2013, for pre-tax parking expenses.

Himes has consistently fought to restore the transit benefit.  He is a cosponsor of the Commuter Parity Act (H.R. 2288), which would permanently extend the parity between parking and transit and allow for annual cost-of-living adjustments.

About 3 million commuters nationwide take advantage of the transit portion of the commuter benefit program, according to Commuter Benefits Work for Us, a transportation advocacy group.