Mass transit commuter perks set to expire

Federal workers might be faced with a drop in commuter benefits come January if Congress does not act. The current mass transit benefit of $230 a month -- equal to the benefit for parking -- will drop to $125 a month beginning in 2012 unless Congress extends the higher level.

Congress passed a one-year extension of the mass transit benefit last year as part of the 2010 Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act.

Although lawmakers in the Senate and House have introduced bills to equalize commuter benefits, keeping the mass transit benefit at $230 a month with a cost of living adjustment, it is unclear whether the measures will pass given Congress' other priorities before the Christmas recess, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley has urged Congress not to let the benefits lapse, sending letters to both the House and Senate. Kelley argued that added commuting costs would be an undue burden to employees who use mass transit and are already dealing with a two-year pay freeze.

"The mass transit commuter benefit provides much needed relief in the form of reduced commuting costs for many working people, including tens of thousands of federal employees that rely on public transportation to get to and from work," Kelley wrote. "In addition, workers using environmentally helpful mass transit should not be provided a lesser benefit than those driving and parking personal vehicles."

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