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An Open Letter to the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee: Transportation Security Administration Must Get Its House in Order Before Hiking Fees on Airline Passengers

February 15, 2005

Dear Senator:

On behalf of the approximately one million members of the groups signed below, we urge you to actively oppose the President's Budget proposal to increase the "9/11 Security Tax" from $2.50 per flight segment to $5.50, with a maximum of $8.00 for multiple legs. These latest hikes are expected to cost airline passengers $1.5 billion annually, in addition to the $3.2 billion in fees airlines and travelers already pay each year for homeland security.

As if socking airline passengers with this punch to the pocketbook weren't enough, the President's proposal comes on top of another 61 percent "passenger inspection fee" increase that was put in place by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) on January 1, 2005. Even prior to that USDA-sponsored shakedown, taxes represented 26 percent of a typical $200 round-trip ticket, thus making air travel among the most heavily taxed activities in America (rivaling smoking, gambling, and drinking).

Taxpayers and the flying public are aware of the heightened security needs of a post-9/11 world, but are skeptical that either managers or employees of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) are doing the best they can to improve security in a cost-effective manner. TSA is notorious for its inability to stop teenagers from sneaking weapons and other dangerous items through security checkpoints. Less well known is that in forming its crack security team, TSA spent an absurd $12,000 per recruit, which is about 40 percent of each recruit's average annual salary of $29,500. With 60,000 new airport screeners hired, TSA spent an estimated $720 million of taxpayers' money just on recruiting.

Before asking taxpayers to cough up more than a billion dollars annually, it is imperative that this Committee and others with oversight jurisdiction over TSA ensure that the agency is doing everything it can to provide necessary security at a reasonable cost to taxpayers. Until that is done, we can think of no justification for these fee increases and we urge you to vigorously oppose this added burden on air travel.


Grover Norquist
Americans for Tax Reform
Paul J. Gessing
Director of Government Affairs
National Taxpayers Union
Tom Schatz
Council for Citizens Against Government Waste
Ryan Ellis
Executive Director
Alliance for Worker Freedom