Maryland commuters could get a break under a bill proposed in the General Assembly in Annapolis that would offer a tax credit to people who drive at least 40 miles round trip to work each day.

The bill by Sen. Arthur Ellis (D-Charles) would provide a credit against drivers’ state income tax to help reimburse them for the costs of commuting.

Ellis said the bill came out of his push for transit options in Charles County, where there are only two main roads to handle the 77 percent of working adults in the county going into southern Prince George’s County toward Washington, D.C.

No matter how fuel-efficient your vehicle is, the commute is expensive.

“You are burning a lot of fuel,” Ellis said.

But traffic problems along Interstate 270 in Frederick and Montgomery counties and other parts of the state show that congestion is a statewide concern, he said.

A policy analysis for the bill said that about 3 million Marylanders commuted to work in 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

About three-quarters of those drove alone, with the rest using carpools and public transportation.

Maryland residents have an average one-way commute of about 33 minutes, the second-highest average in the country.

The bill would apply to commuters who drive between 40 and 120 miles round trip each day, between three and five days a week, or drivers who travel between 6,240 and 31,200 miles each year.

People who live within a 5-mile radius of a commuter rail station would not qualify for the tax credit.

Anyone who wanted to qualify for the tax credit would have to provide proof of their permanent address and their vehicle registration address match, and certification by their employer of their work address and the average number of days worked each week.

The policy analysis estimates that the tax credit would cost the state about $357.4 million in fiscal 2021, with costs rising yearly from administrative costs for the comptroller’s office and the Maryland Department of Transportation.

Dylan Diggs, who drives from Frederick to Washington for his job with the federal government, said the extra money from the tax credit would obviously help people with the cost of commuting but questioned whether the state should provide public money for that purpose.

He wondered whether the tax credit would be an incentive to drive to work rather than use other types of transportation.

Diggs said he would support the idea of a tax credit more if a bill could be oriented more toward lower-income commuters.

There is a need among commuters who lack telecommuting options and access to public transit, he said.

Charles County has a popular commuter bus service, but the people who ride the buses are stuck in the same traffic as everyone else, Ellis said.

A lot of people are also forced to drive because the buses are full, he said.

“The demand is there, but the supply, even with commuter buses, is not,” he said.

Ellis said the cost of the tax credit would go back into Maryland’s economy.

“These are working men and women who will get this money back in their pocket,” he said.

Follow Ryan Marshall on Twitter: @RMarshallFNP.

Ryan Marshall is the transportation and growth and development reporter for the News-Post. He can be reached at rmarshall@newspost.com.

(21) comments

kzat82

Or ... OR ... figure out how much money the state would lose with this ridiculous tax credit -- oh there it is, $350 million -- and earmark it for public transportation. After 3 years of not implementing said credit, you've got yourself a cool billion dollars, which could go a long way (pun intended) to improving public transportation for those commuters.

kaihagen

I'd be very surprised if something like this passed!

public-redux

This idea is as dumb as the senior homeowner tax credit.

mrnatural1

I agree public, and I will be a "senior" homeowner in a few short years.

steveandpat

This makes no sense. They want to reimburse people for burning more fossil fuels? If they want to be fair to all, simply reduce the state tax on gasoline.

MD1756

It runs counter to their desire to fight climate change and it was proposed by a Democrat. So much for being a leader on environmental issues. Sen. Arthur Ellis, turn in your Democratic party card.

thump1202

Encourage more congestion and pollution typical idiotic politician thinking. Let's see a tax credit for businesses that offer telecommuting instead to keep people off the road and eliminate commuting costs. Plenty of technology exists to replicate an office environment and a whole lot of DC commuters sit in cubicles all day.

gabrielshorn2013

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup] Thump!

mrnatural1

Spot-on thump! [thumbup]

Brookhawk

"A lot of people are also forced to drive because the buses are full, he said.

“The demand is there, but the supply, even with commuter buses, is not,” he said."

DUH. Get more buses.

petersamuel

An all-round bad, bad idea -- encourages sprawl, encourages long tiring commutes, adds to the complexity of the already mind-bogglingly complex income tax, adds to the temptation to defraud the tax system (how do you audit all that individual complexity of commuting), a pander to another interest group. Thumbs down.

rbtdt5

Why not just lower the gas tax?

shiftless88

This will go nowhere as it is the antithesis of what Maryland is trying to do (reduce commuters). I am not giving a tax credit to someone who chooses to live a long ways from their job. The exception would be if they are in a lower-paying public service job like a police or teacher where they often cannot afford to live in some of the expensive locations they work.

DickD

My concern is it will encourage more driving alone, unless all get a tax credit. And it does mean less money for roads, unless there is a separate fund the money comes from. But why should anyone get a tax credit based on distance from their work location?

gabrielshorn2013

Excellent response shiftless. I was going to say the same. This silly proposal just promotes commuting, and adds to the already clogged roadways. Who would ever think this approach would be viable? Nobody.

Frayou

Possibly I don’t understand. Why do politicians pass laws to collect taxes which they say is needed to provide “public” infrastructure & services and the turnaround and pass countermeasures such as tax credits? Especially with recent plans for additional tolls. The money lost to proposed credits will likely have to be budgeted from somewhere. Just another maze of disproportionate taxes.

MD1756

It's known as redistribution of wealth. In this case from people who don't drive far to people who do. How do you measure the 40 miles? If you're at 39.9 miles and have a long driveway can you add that in to get 40+ miles? Can you take a slightly longer route to get the 40+ miles? It's just one more stupid idea. I wonder if he drives more than 40 miles a day when the legislature is in session? If the justification for a tax credit (apparently not just a deduction) was the money will go back into the economy, please give me a full tax credit from my state taxes and I promise I will spend it in the state. Pretty please?

DickD

Nothing here about van pools. We went into D.C. and Oakton, VA. Both over 50 miles one way. But we had van pools. Does everyone in the van qualifyor just the owner. And how will the State know that you are in a van pool or even carpool, where maybe you drive once a week.

dcmetro

I believe that some employers provide employees with incentives for commuting including the federal government. The federal government allows employees to withhold money before taxes for their daily commute. Where you live is a choice. I chose to live in Urbana even though I worked in North Bethesda. Since I worked for the school system I didn't get the commuter incentives like government employees, but it was a choice between having a small condo in MoCo compared to a townhome in FredCo.

jsklinelga

This is perplexing to say the least. In the last several weeks there were a barrage of comments concerning climate change. Several county council members offered a resolution citing the urgency of combating climate change which necessitated a WW2 type mobilization to combat the crisis. Then we have this anti-climate change bill offered by a State Delegate of the same party. Perplexing but typical.

Frayou

Just another proposal by a politician to add to his list for voters.

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