Benefits for commuters?

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, May 6, 2011 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

Senator Bill Emmerson (R-Riverside) has introduced SB 582: Commute Benefits Policies, sponsored by the Bay Area Air Management District.  This bill would authorize, effective January 1, 2013, a metropolitan planning organization jointly with the local air quality management district or air pollution control district to adopt a commute benefit ordinance that requires employers operating within the district with a specified number of employees to offer those employees certain commute benefits. It would also specify consequences for noncompliance and impose a reporting requirement to the Legislature on the planning organization or air district.

The intent is to require employers to adopt policies that encourage commuting by means other than driving alone.  The ordinance would require employers to allow employees one of the following choices:

  1. A pretax option whereby employees could elect to exclude from taxable wages, in accordance with Internal Revenue code, commuting costs incurred for transit passes or vanpool charges or bicycle commuting up to the maximum allowed by federal tax law.
  2. Employer-paid benefit: a program that offers the employee a subsidy to offset the monthly cost of commuting via transit or vanpool or $75 whichever is lower.  The amount would be adjusted annually in accordance with the California Consumer Price Index.
  3. Employer-provided transit transportation at no cost or low cost as determined by the planning organization or air district.

The bill defines “covered employers” as those employing 20 or more full-time employees per week but allows the planning organization or air district to increase that threshold to 50 at its discretion.  The requirement to provide the options mentioned above applies only to employees who work 20 hours or more per week.  The provisions of this statute would sunset on January 1, 2017 unless a later statute is enacted.

CMTA’s Environmental Quality Committee had significant concerns with SB 582 and the additional burdens it places on businesses during these challenging economic times.  We are in opposition.

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