MBTA ridership lowers pre-tax public transit wages
BOSTON – With ridership on the MBTA declining and highway congestion returning, Rep. Steven Owens has tabled legislation that his supporters say would put more people on public transit and allow commuters to travel. ‘to save money.
Owens, D-Watertown, introduced a bill requiring Massachusetts employers with 20 or more employees to provide a benefit to non-union workers that would allow them to use pre-tax wages to pay for transit costs.
The bill, supporters say, would actually save employers because they wouldn’t have to pay payroll taxes on pre-tax income, and employees could reduce their own tax burden. Employees would be allowed to use up to $ 270 for fares, pooling vans, bicycles or other forms of transportation, supporters said.
Pete Wilson, a longtime legislative employee who now advises Transportation for Massachusetts, said he took advantage as a state employee of the program, which is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service.
“Employers have to do their fair share,” Wilson said. “The great thing about these is that if your employee doesn’t take advantage of these benefits, the employer has nothing to do.”
Many employers, including the federal government, already offer the benefit to workers, and Wilson said cities like Seattle and New York and states like New Jersey have passed laws or are considering policies requiring the benefit be offered to workers.
Brian Kane, executive director of the MBTA advisory board, said the board voted in March to support the legislation and saw it as an important tool to help the MBTA get passengers back into the system and generate fare revenue that will be necessary to avoid deficits in future years.
Joe Barr, director of parking and traffic transport at Cambridge, said his city had been successful with the program for its municipal workers, helping to get cars off the streets, and he urged adoption of a program statewide.