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Monday, June 30, 2008

Fringe Benefit for Biking Groundhog Day

[Update -- this bill hit the House floor July 15, click here for the skinny] Via bikeportland.org, it appears that Rep. Blumenauer of Oregon has once again picked himself up, dusted off his stylish bowtie, and flung the most no-brainer hunk of legislation against the wall of Congress, yet again. Just to review, this change to the tax code would allow employers to provide a transportation fringe benefit to bicycle commuters tax-free, in the same way that employers have been able to provide up to $220 in parking reimbursement, and up to $100 in mass transit reimbursement, tax-free, for years now. But sorry, area biking Feds, don't get your hopes up that you will be getting a new bike in place of those useless Smartrip cards you just hand out to your friends every quarter. The last version of the bill that made it through the House allowed for $20 per month maximum. There are a whole lot of other provisions to the bill, and they are all very nice, read more at bikeportland.org. The bill has not been introduced on the floor yet, and I can't find the full-text of the bill, but I will update and replace the bill tracker widget once it makes it gets introduced. But the same thing that probably smothered this bill in the Senate last time round, the required paygo provision, is back, and is still as untouchable as the Metro third rail. The revenue loss (again, the taxes on $20 lousy dollars a month disbursed to us few bicycle commuters by employers who even bother) has to be offset somehow, and it would be paid by closing oil company tax subsidies. Oil companies like subsidies, and lots of powerful people like oil companies. So, hopefully it will make it through the House again. And maybe even merit floor discussion in the Senate this time. But the present administration has previously staked out an intention to veto, and while many Senators may like bikers, I am guessing that number falls somewhat short of 60. Too cynical? Just one of the many reasons I will never be a Congressman, I suppose. I'm just a bike commuter who needs a new rear tire.

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