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Tax breaks to ease traffic congestion

A measure signed into law by Governor Gary Locke will help Washington businesses reward their employees who commute to work without driving alone, a Federal Way state legislator said.

“This legislation is good for business, workers and the environment,” said its author, Sen. Tracey J. Eide (D-30th District). “It will help reduce demand during peak travel times, ease congestion and improve air quality. And you know the saying - we all live downwind.”

The measure provides a tax credit to businesses that offer financial incentives to their employees who use alternative transportation modes - such as carpooling, vanpooling, riding the bus, bicycling or walking -- to get to work. Employers may apply for a credit of up to $60 per employee per year or up to half of the financial incentive, whichever is less.

Employers with 100 or more employees in the state’s nine largest counties are required to implement commute-trip reduction programs to reduce the number of employees driving alone to work. The Legislature passed the commute-trip reduction law in 1993 to ease traffic congestion, air pollution and fuel consumption.

The tax credit was first offered in 1994, but expired in December 2000. The credit has now been extended through June 30, 2012. Funding for the program is included in the statewide transportation package that will be on the November ballot.

In 1996, 115 businesses collected the tax credit. By 1999, more than 270 businesses participated in the program, according to the Department of Transportation.

“With that kind of growth, we can’t afford not to support businesses that are traffic-conscious and environmentally friendly,” Eide added. “We all reap the benefits of having fewer cars on the road.”

The measure (Senate Bill 6008) goes into effect Jan. 1, 2003.

For details: (360) 786-7569.

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