- Report Published -
|Qualified Transportation Fringe Benefits Programs in Virginia|
|Department of Rail and Public Transportation|
|HJR 486 (Regular Session, 1993)|
|House Joint Resolution 486 of the 1993 Acts of the General Assembly requested the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (VDRPT) to study the tax-free transit benefits of the 1992 National Energy Policy Act. We did so combining the study with other Department efforts to implement Governor Wilder's "Virginia Energy Plan"; provide comments on administrative interpretation of the National Energy Policy Act, and to encourage the U.S. Congress to continue the federal transit benefit program.|
The study addressed the following elements of HJR 486:
1. Examined the 1992 National Energy Policy Act -- The Act established a "Qualified Transportation Fringe Benefit" (QTFB) in the I.R.S. Code, which changed the tax treatment of employer provided transit and parking benefits. It increased the tax-free transit benefits an employer can provide to $60 per month and made vanpoolers eligible for the benefit. In addition, it established a tax-free, "qualified parking" benefit of up to $155 per month for transit users, vanpoolers and carpoolers. Conversely, the legislation established that employer-provided parking valued at more than $155 per month is now taxable.
The examination also included related legislation, known as the "Mikulski Amendment" which permits federal agencies to participate in state or local government programs that encourage their employees to use public transportation. The amendment was passed in November 1990 and expires on December 31, 1993.
Due to the importance of these acts to Virginians, we participated in the national debate involving the interpretation of the National Energy Policy Act and the revision and re-authorization of the federal agency transit benefit program.
2. Followed the Division of Motor Vehicles Pilot Program and Others -- DMV initiated a four-month pilot "Transit Fare Discount" program for employees in their Richmond Central Office on January 1, 1993. Sixty-six DMV employees in the program which offered transit users a $20 discount on a $30 book of transit tickets. The successful pilot became a permanent program in May 1993 and has been expanded to other DMV offices throughout the state.
Two other state agency transit benefit programs began after the DMV pilot project. The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation started a similar program February 1, 1993. All three programs successfully encouraged state employees to use transit, vanpools or carpools. VDOT's Richmond Central Office Program has encouraged 88 employees to use transit, almost doubling the number using transit (from 93 to 181 bus riders). Currently, 14.6% of VDOT's Central Office employees travel to work by bus.
Additionally, we investigated private sector participation in transit benefit programs in Virginia and other states. There are many successful programs. For example, nearly 300 private sector businesses and 84 federal agencies, representing over 50,000 employees in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, participate in the regions "Metrochek" transit discount program.
3. Developed Findings from the Review of Existing Programs -- Transit pass programs based on the qualified transportation fringe benefit provisions o the I.R.S. Code are easy to implement in both the private and pubic sectors. Cooperation among public and private employers helps assure successful programs, particularly in large urban areas. Governments often serve as catalysts to encourage private sector participation in these programs.
4. Recommend Programs in the Commonwealth
We determined that state general fund agencies need specific budgetary or statutory authority to begin these employee benefit programs. After reviewing alternatives, the advisory committee recommended language be placed in the Governor's 1994 Recommended Budget to enable state agencies to implement qualified transportation fringe benefit programs for their employees. If passed, general fund agencies could begin qualified transportation fringe benefit programs effective July 1, 1994.