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Benson Bill to Help Workers Pay Commuting Costs Clears Legislature

(TRENTON) – Helping to ease commuting costs for New Jersey workers, legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Daniel R. Benson was approved by the Assembly Thursday, 62-12-2.

The bill (A-2425) requires every employer in New Jersey that employs at least 20 persons, not subject to a collective bargaining agreement, to offer a pre-tax transportation fringe benefit to all of the employer’s employees.

A pre-tax transportation fringe benefit provides commuter highway vehicle and transit benefits, at the maximum benefit levels allowable under federal law, to be deducted for those programs from an employee’s gross income. The pre-tax transportation fringe benefit allows an employee to set aside wages on a pre-tax basis, which is then only made available to the employee for the purchase of transportation services, including transit passes and commuter highway vehicle travel.

“The cost of commuting in New Jersey is disappointing and disconcerting, especially after the neglect from the governor’s office during the last eight years, but this would be a helpful fringe benefit to help workers pay for getting back and forth from work,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Employers should be offering this benefit already, but with this bill we’ll make sure employees have this option and can take advantage of it, if they want. It’s a common sense way to lend a helping hand as we work with the new governor to make New Jersey more affordable.”

Under the bill, a civil penalty is to be imposed for any employer found to be in violation of the bill of not less than $100 and not more than $250 for the first violation. An employer has 90 days from the date of the violation to offer the pre-tax transportation fringe benefit program before the civil penalty is imposed. After 90 days, each additional 30 day period in which an employer fails to offer a pre-tax transportation fringe benefit is a subsequent violation subject to a $250 civil penalty. The civil penalty is to be imposed only once in any 30 day period. The Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development is required to ensure that eligible employers provide the pre-tax transportation fringe benefit and is authorized to issue citations for noncompliance.

The bill also requires NJ Transit, in conjunction with the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and the South Jersey Transportation Authority, to establish a public awareness campaign to encourage the public to contact employers about pre-tax transportation fringe benefits.

The bill was also approved by the Senate on Thursday, 27-8. It will now go to the Governor for further review.