Spring means a number of changes here in New York. There’s baseball on the diamonds again, the sound of children on the swing sets, and the first pay check that you’ve been able to keep in your wallet. Now, I know that the last one might seem a little odd to you, but in 2012, Long Islanders had to work 121 days (until May 1) until they earned enough money to pay all of their combined taxes.
In 2009, Congress increased the maximum mass transit benefit to $230 per month, but these benefits need to be renewed on a yearly basis. Unfortunately, the federal government’s inaction has resulted in these benefits being reduced to the pre-2009 level of $125 a month. New York also provides mass transit tax breaks for commuters that mirror the federal benefit. Consequently, because of the actions of money-hungry politicians in Congress, your tax bill will go up this year if we fail to act quickly.
While our representatives in Washington continue partisan bickering, state government has worked to cut middle-class taxes to their lowest rate in 58 years, enact two consecutive on-time budgets while cutting state spending, and restored $805 million in crucial aid to education.
Long Islanders now need state government to enact a bipartisan initiative that saves them real dollars-and-cents every day. I’m sponsoring legislation in the state Assembly (A6175B), in conjunction with a companion bill from Senator Fuschillo, to restore the mass transit pre-tax benefits for commuters here in Long Island. My legislation would fully restore the state monthly pre-tax transit benefits for commuters to $240. It also would create parity between the current federal and state pre-tax benefits, which would help offset parking costs for commuters who drive.
This initiative isn’t just a bipartisan initiative, it’s common sense. New York already ranks 49th in the nation for business climate, and this loss of pre-tax benefit doesn’t help our cause. In a memo “strongly supporting” the legislation, the Permanent Citizens Advisory Council to the MTA, which includes the Long Island Rail Road Commuter Council, the Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council, and the New York City Transit Riders Council, noted that “the expiration of higher transit benefit limits has, in effect, resulted in a tax increase for transit commuters,” and that “regardless of action that may be taken at the federal level, state law should not disadvantage transit commuters.”
Long Islanders deserve a government that is doing all it can to keep money in their pockets. While we’ve made great strides during the last two years, we need to continue to improve New York’s business climate. As long as more than 112,000 Long Islanders are out of work, our job in the Legislature isn’t done. I want to take this opportunity to call on leaders in the state Assembly to move swiftly to enact this crucial tax break for residents.