'Fiscal cliff' deal restores mass-transit subsidy

Wednesday - 1/2/2013, 6:47pm EST

Federal-employee unions have reacted warily to the legislative deal to avoid the "fiscal cliff." While the deal extends tax cuts for middle-income employees the pressing issue of the automatic, across-the-board budget agency cuts, known as sequestration, was only delayed two months — not averted altogether.

But tucked in the last-minute deal was at least one piece of good news for federal employees.

The bill, which awaits President Barack Obama's signature, reinstates parity between the mass transit and parking benefits. The mass transit subsidy was reduced in 2011 to $125 even as a similar subsidy for parking benefits was increased to $240 a month.

Under the current bill, the mass-transit subsidy will be increased to $240 a month through 2013 and made retroactive to Jan. 1, 2012.

"I am pleased to see this very positive step," said National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley in a statement.

Kelley had been a particularly vocal proponent of restoring the subsidy, saying the planned reduction would affect thousands of federal employees — particularly in the Washington, D.C. Area — that rely public transportation to get to work.

Lawmakers introduced measures in both the House and the Senate to restore the full subsidy, and the Senate included it in its version of a massive bill to fund transportation projects. However, the provision was dropped during a conference committee, and a stand-alone measure in the House languished.

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