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McGovern Fights for Commuter Benefits

Encouraging public transportation has many benefits, the congressman says.

U.S. Rep. James McGovern, D-Massachusetts, visited the Grafton MBTA station this morning to make the case for extending tax benefits for commuters.

“It shouldn’t cost more to travel to work than your paycheck,’’ he said, his comments at times drowned out by the rumble of the commuter trains.

Currently, commuters who drive to work and park are eligible for up to $240 in pre-tax benefits per month from their employer.

By contrast, in January 2012 commuters taking mass transit such as commuter rail, subways, buses or vanpools saw their benefit drop from $230 to $125 a month.

Failing to extend equivalent tax benefits to commuters only encourages people to use their own vehicles, which creates gridlock on the roads, adds to pollution and requires more fuel use, McGovern said.

Extending these tax benefits for commuters “makes sense for a whole lot of reasons,’’ McGovern said.

“It puts money back in the pockets of everyday commuters,’’ he said.

A commuter traveling from Grafton to Boston daily could save as much as $500 a year if the tax benefit were extended, said Mike Neville, manager of finance for police, security and outside services at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“A tax policy that rewards drivers and penalizes those who choose public transportation makes no sense,’’ said Paul Dean, Vice President of TransitCenter, a nonprofit organization that promotes public transportation.

 “Congress needs to act now to pass Congressman McGovern's legislation to restore parity between the parking and transit commuter benefits,'' he said

In an interview after the press conference, McGovern stressed that the concept has support from representatives of both parties and is “a legitimately bipartisan issue.’’

The key, he said, is to include this in a bill that would be approved by the House and the Senate.

And that can be easier said than done these days, he said. “Some people don’t want the president to sign anything into law’’ before the election, he said.

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