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Long IslandPoliticsSpin Cycle

Push to boost mass-transit tax benefit for commuters

Here’s what the Long Island Lobby Coalition calls a head scratcher: Commuters are getting a bigger tax break by driving to work rather than taking mass transit.

They are making a last-minute push for the state Legislature to boost the credit for mass transit before it adjourns for the year on Thursday. The coalition is a group of 55 entities including environmental organizations, labor unions, small businesses and others.

The inequity was created, they said, when Congress failed in 2011 to renew a pretax deduction available to commuters who use mass transit. As a result, commuters who drive can get up to $240 per month in pre-tax benefits while mass transit users are limited to $125 per month.

The coalition wants the state to pass a bill, sponsored by Sen. Charles Fuschillo Jr. (R-Merrick) and Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach), that would make the mass-transit deduction permanent whether Congress renews it or not.

Trouble is, passage would mean a $15 million hit on the state treasury, supporters acknowledge,   which might generate opposition.

The Senate passed the bill early this year. It's on hold in the Assembly, as time is running out on the session.

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