Friday, December 21, 2007

Bike commuter incentive trashed in Senate

The energy legislation signed by President Bush on Wednesday left out a far-sighted provision meant to encourage commuting by bicycle. The idea was to exempt from taxation any employee benefits that depended on biking to work. It was a parallel to existing tax breaks on things like free parking for commuters' cars.

One congressional staffer told Andy Thornley of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition:
The whole tax title was stripped ... we needed 60 votes and got 59 -- 40 Rs and one D voted to strike the tax title (bikes, cellulosic ethanol, wind, solar, oil and gas revenue offests, etc.) altogether, and they had the votes.
The bicycle provision was a tiny part of the renewable energy and energy efficiency tax package in H.R. 6 when it went to the Senate. The tax impact was calculated at $21.8 billion, so anything connected to it was in for a hard time in this Senate -- where the Democrats, with their one-seat majority, had to scramble hard even to win the sexier goal of increasing car gas-mileage requirements.

The inequity of the result bugs me. Car commuters are excused from taxation on up to $215 a month of parking costs. Transit riders get a $115 break. Bicyclists, zip. For at least another year, we shall have to be content with the knowledge that when we pedal to work we save oil, shed surplus pounds and keep the air clean.

P.S.: Here's a bit more from Bike Portland.

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