Harp: Keep Commuter Tax Break

Mayor Toni Harp met U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal at Union Station Monday—not to catch a train, but to urge Congress to enable commuters to catch a break when they catch a train.

The occasion was a press conference to support Blumenthal’s call for Congress to extend a special tax break for commuters. The special break allowed mass-transit commuters to deduct $245 a month from their taxes. The break expired Jan. 1. Now commuters can deduct only $130 a month unless Congress heeds Blumenthal’s call to extend the special break.

Harp made the following remarks at the press conference:

I first want to thank Senator Blumenthal for bringing this matter up for discussion today. I want to express my appreciation for his willingness to step out on this important issue – and so many others that directly impact tens of thousands of commuters in our state. And in a broad sense I want to acknowledge his continuing advocacy for Connecticut and its residents.

With regard to this federal initiative to extend tax benefits to commuters using public transportation I have three points to make.

• From a policy perspective, this is completely consistent with public sector investments that have been made since the first roads, bridges, wharves, piers, and yes, railroads, were built. Mass, public transportation is the very definition of the greatest good for the greatest number, so it follows that public resources be used to encourage its use. Mass transit improves air quality and reduces congestion, improving overall circulation for people and commerce alike. In some of Senator Blumenthal’s literature this translates into millions of barrels of oil saved, billions – with a ‘b’ – of dollars in fuel savings for consumers, and hundreds of millions of productive hours added to the lives of drivers.

• As a practical matter, this investment of public resources is directed in what is perhaps the most meaningful way: directly to consumers who use mass transit. There is likely no better incentive for individuals than to ‘show them the money’ and this is exactly what Senator Blumenthal is describing today. Not only would these tax advantages provide a financial boost to these families, but then it becomes likely that some of that additional, discretionary capital winds up circulating back into the local economy in some other fashion, to the benefit of local shops, restaurants, or other businesses.

• And then as a parochial matter, for me and so many New Haven residents, Senator Blumenthal’s initiative has great meaning in our city. As you’ve read, our city is already in discussions with state officials, working toward a collaborative project that will revitalize this Union Station and the surrounding neighborhood. The tax incentives we seek today will bring more commuters through this part of town and into this station – twice a day. If you’ll allow the expression, those who ride the train are the economic engine for the businesses we envision for this area.

Again, I commend Senator Blumenthal for his leadership and advocacy on this issue, I thank him for scheduling this event in New Haven today, and I urge his colleagues in Washington to act favorably on this initiative to the benefit of overall air quality and fuel savings, families who will use mass transit and avail themselves of the tax benefits, and all of us in New Haven who are eager to maximize the economic potential here at Union Station.

Thank you very much.

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posted by: anonymous on January 6, 2014  3:22pm

No mention of the fact that people who drive can continue to deduct the full $245 per month this year?

Either eliminate this tax break altogether, or make the deduction for those who take public transit the same as the one that people who drive will continue to get this year.

posted by: TheMadcap on January 6, 2014  3:28pm

Indeed. And if they don’t want to keep it, then make the tax break for cars the same as mass transit instead of $100 more.

posted by: Atticus Shrugged on January 7, 2014  12:07pm

Thanks for Sen. Blumenthal and Mayor Harp for speaking out on this issue.  I’m in favor of the break for its economics as well as its potential environmental impact.  As costs of gas continue to rise and tolls on roads increase, the number of commuters who rely on public transit will only increase.  This can be seen in part by the shift from suburbs to urban areas that has already begun.

posted by: Noteworthy on January 7, 2014  7:58pm

Commuter Tax Notes:

1. Commuters don’t need a tax break and don’t deserve one. We all pay one way or another to get to work. This is the kind of tax break that makes the tax code so complicated and frankly, is ripe for abuse. End it.

2. Toni Harp knows about commuter tax laws? Really?