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An Open Letter to the U.S. House of Representatives: Bring H.R. 2881 Back to Earth!
September 18, 2007
On behalf of the 362,000 members of the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), I urge you to keep taxpayers in mind as you consider and vote on H.R. 2881, the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2007. As currently written, the FAA Reauthorization bill includes several damaging provisions that ought to be removed. In addition, H.R. 2881 does not appropriately reflect the changes needed for the future of air travel. Our members hope you will consider the following specific recommendations during your deliberations:
Do not hike the taxes paid by American travelers. Section 111 of H.R. 2881 would allow an increase in the maximum Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) from the current $4.50 up to $7.00. The PFC was meant to fund basic aviation infrastructure that enhances safety or capacity. Unfortunately, it is often used to subsidize non-essential programs. A March 2007 Government Accountability Office report estimated that from 2001 to 2005, airports received an average of $13 billion each year from the Airport Improvement Program, hardly a massive shortchanging of the airport community. Instead of unnecessarily hiking taxes on travelers by raising the PFC or other fees, Congress ought to focus on subjecting airport funding to greater cost-benefit analysis.
Do not subvert the legitimately-negotiated contract between the FAA and air traffic controllers. Section 601 of the bill would essentially overturn the contract implemented last year between the FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association and re-impose the 1998 contract. The 2006 contract is in the process of saving taxpayers $7.5 billion over the next ten years. Meanwhile, air traffic controllers are earning an average of $171,000 per year in total compensation, about $130,000 per year before benefits. Forcing the FAA into a more expensive contract will limit its ability to invest in much-needed modernization, including the so-called "NextGen" air traffic control system.
Take cues from our global allies and move toward reform of air traffic control. An April 2005 report by the Government Accountability Office found that private sector-driven air traffic control services in Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom were able to reduce costs and improve efficiency without adversely affecting safety. If America is to be a beacon of free markets and low regulation, we cannot sit idly by while socialistic democracies take off toward minimally regulated, successful air transit systems.
NTU strongly supports efforts to protect taxpayers and establish a user-oriented air traffic control network. As currently written, H.R. 2881 would raise taxes, reduce the chance of proper investment in vital infrastructure, and do nothing to move toward a streamlined, private air traffic control system. Any roll call votes related to these provisions, including substitute legislation and final passage, will be significantly weighted in our annual Rating of Congress.