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UPDATED: Senate sweetens bailout bill with Bike Commuter Act


[See below for updates: Hint, Blumenauer is saying he won’t support the bailout package.]


“The (bailout) bill now includes a… tax benefit for bicycle commuting sought by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat, also a “no” vote on Monday.”
— from an article in the Baltimore Sun

Hoping to garner votes from House members who previously voted “no” on the $700 billion financial bailout package, the U.S. Senate has added several sweeteners to the bill (now known as the “Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008”).

Among those enhancements (according to this article in the Baltimore Sun) is the Bike Commuter Act, a piece of legislation championed by Rep. Earl Blumenauer for many years. Blumenauer voted “no” on the bailout on Monday and the move by the Senate is being done in hopes to turn that into a “yes”.

(See below for full text of the bike commuter benefit portion of the bill.)

The Bike Commuter Act most recently passed the House and Senate as part of the Energy and Tax Extenders Act of 2008 (H.R. 6049). However, according to Blumenauer staffer Katie Drennan, that bill is currently bogged down as lawmakers figure out how to pay for it and try to reach compromises on amendments.

Drennan says Blumenauer had nothing to do with the Bike Commuter Act being added into the bailout bill.

Regardless of how it ended up here, it puts Blumenauer in an interesting political position. If he sticks to his guns and votes “no” on the bailout (like he did on Monday), he might be passing up the best chance his Bike Commuter Act has ever had.

As for whether or not the Bike Commuter Act provision will sway Blumenauer’s vote; Drennan was cautious and told me this morning that, “I don’t know if that will influence how he votes.”

The House is set to vote on the bailout package on Friday.

[Thanks to reader Darren P. for the heads up on this.]

[UPDATES:
1:52pm: Here’s the most recent statement from Congressman Blumenauer:

“I continue to think that we need more protections for taxpayer and bankruptcy fairness which will do more to stop the free fall than anything else.

Obviously, this is a dynamic economic situation and many things are in play. I am listening carefully and closely monitoring the situation.

Knowing what I know now in terms of our economic situation and with this bill in its current form, absent some dramatic change in circumstances, I have no plans to support the bailout legislation.

====

1:45pm: Katie Drennan from Blumenauer’s office just left this comment:

“I just want to clarify that the inclusion of the tax extenders bill, adopted by the Senate, was not added in due to any negotiations on the part of Congressman Blumenauer. The legislation is far reaching and includes incentives for many types of alternative energy, as well as revising the Alternative Minimum Tax. There are many good provisions in the legislation, which is why the House has passed it on numerous occasions. However the decision of the Senate to include these provisions in their legislation was not at the behest of the Congressman. Thank you for allowing me to clarify.”


Here’s the full text of the bike commuter benefit portion of the bill (link):

SEC. 211. TRANSPORTATION FRINGE BENEFIT TO BICYCLE COMMUTERS.

(a) In General- Paragraph (1) of section 132(f) is amended by adding at the end the following:

`(D) Any qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement.’.

(b) Limitation on Exclusion- Paragraph (2) of section 132(f) is amended by striking `and’ at the end of subparagraph (A), by striking the period at the end of subparagraph (B) and inserting `, and’, and by adding at the end the following new subparagraph:

`(C) the applicable annual limitation in the case of any qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement.’.

(c) Definitions- Paragraph (5) of section 132(f) is amended by adding at the end the following:

`(F) DEFINITIONS RELATED TO BICYCLE COMMUTING REIMBURSEMENT-

`(i) QUALIFIED BICYCLE COMMUTING REIMBURSEMENT- The term `qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement’ means, with respect to any calendar year, any employer reimbursement during the 15-month period beginning with the first day of such calendar year for reasonable expenses incurred by the employee during such calendar year for the purchase of a bicycle and bicycle improvements, repair, and storage, if such bicycle is regularly used for travel between the employee’s residence and place of employment.

`(ii) APPLICABLE ANNUAL LIMITATION- The term `applicable annual limitation’ means, with respect to any employee for any calendar year, the product of $20 multiplied by the number of qualified bicycle commuting months during such year.

`(iii) QUALIFIED BICYCLE COMMUTING MONTH- The term `qualified bicycle commuting month’ means, with respect to any employee, any month during which such employee–

`(I) regularly uses the bicycle for a substantial portion of the travel between the employee’s residence and place of employment, and

`(II) does not receive any benefit described in subparagraph (A), (B), or (C) of paragraph (1).’.

(d) Constructive Receipt of Benefit- Paragraph (4) of section 132(f) is amended by inserting `(other than a qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement)’ after `qualified transportation fringe’.

(e) Effective Date- The amendments made by this section shall apply to taxable years beginning after December 31, 2008.

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