U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and NYPD Commissioner Ray...

U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly are to announce a new plan Tuesday, April 10, 2012, to secure stolen cellphones. (Jan. 16, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

New Yorkers who used to get a monthly tax deduction for their mass transit expenses may have the break reinstated, Sen. Charles Schumer said Sunday at Penn Station.

The Senate version of the transportation bill, expected to pass with bipartisan support Tuesday, contains an allowable tax deduction of up to $240 per month for mass transit.

If House lawmakers can be persuaded to add the provision to their version of the bill, the break would apply retroactively to January and February and affect everybody taking the Long Island Rail Road, subways, buses and the Metro-North Commuter Railroad, said Schumer (D-N.Y.).

"Many people thought that the benefit of such help to New Yorkers was dead. It is not," Schumer said. "It has been given new life and if the House acts the way the Senate will, we can restore it."

In 2009, Schumer wrote legislation that created a tax deduction for straphangers equal to what commuters can deduct for cars, $230 per month. The measure expired Dec. 31, and the House did not renew it. Schumer blamed a "group of tea party candidates from rural areas who don't have mass transit." He did not name specific legislators.

The expiration was an effective tax hike, cutting deductible mass transit expenses to $115, Schumer said. At the same time, deductibles for cars rose $10 to $240.

Schumer and Dan Neuburger, president of Wageworks Commuter Services, which manages such accounts for employers, said the Senate bill will help New Yorkers save more and give people an incentive to use mass transit, which will reduce congestion on roads, lower dependence on fuel and spur the economy.

Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the Straphangers Campaign, a transit advocacy group, supported the measure, calling it a "big milestone towards winning this critical tax relief for subway and bus riders."

If it passes, the measure will affect about 500,000 New Yorkers and 2.7 million people nationwide.

Schumer said support for mass transit deductions has "new strength" and is hopeful that House Republicans will reconsider their opposition to the bill.

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