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An Open Letter to the House of Representatives: Vote No on H.R. 5449!

June 5, 2006

Dear Member of Congress:

On behalf of the 350,000 members of the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), I strongly urge you to vote "NO" on H.R. 5449. This bill, introduced by Representative Steven LaTourette (R-OH), would needlessly interfere in negotiations between the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) by sending the two parties into endless negotiation, undermining efforts to rein in controller costs.

Since 1998, pay for air traffic controllers has increased 75%. The average air traffic controller now receives a package worth $173,000 annually in salary and benefits. A generous compensation package is certainly in order for individuals whose jobs involve a great deal of training and expertise, but another round of pay increases on already-lofty incomes should not come at the expense of agency reform that could benefit the traveling public.

The FAA's proposed contract would save taxpayers $1.9 billion in just the first five years. Considering the appalling amount of waste and mismanagement in the federal aviation system, such savings are long overdue. If the air traffic controllers succeed in stalling the process, the FAA estimates that costs would increase $3.7 billion over a 10-year span. That money could instead be used for technological modernization, improvements to capacity and safety, or even deficit reduction.

There is a pre-established process for negotiation of labor contracts between the two groups that is running its course. A dispute should be settled under the auspices of existing law, not by legislative fiat. Congress would set a dangerous precedent whereby political actors can trump a legitimate negotiating process. In any event, enactment of H.R. 5449 would only serve to obscure the real issue of the urgent need for "re-deregulation" of America's airways: air traffic control privatization. America's air traffic control system is woefully inefficient and faces structural funding problems year after year. An April 2005 report by the Government Accountability Office found that private 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 the United States is to be a beacon of free markets and low regulation, we cannot be left on the runway while socialistic democracies take off toward minimally regulated, successful transit systems. In lieu of fundamental reform, the FAA and Congress should focus on improving efficiency and safety, not the unrealistic demands of union bosses. A no vote on H.R 5449 is the right vote for taxpayers and consumers. Any roll-call vote on this bill will be included in our annual Rating of Congress.


Andrew Moylan
Government Affairs Manager