Congress Remains on Standby - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Congress Remains on Standby

Thank goodness we don’t have to write on paper anymore, or the forests of entire continents would have been wiped out explaining the Donald Trump phenomenon.

One explanation that crops up consistently, though, is that voters elect Republicans to Congress, but then those Republicans don’t deliver the promised outcomes. Why not an outsider with little actual connection to the party to whip the leadership into shape and get some conservative legislation passed?

I don’t share the affinity for Trump, but I do understand the frustration with a congressional gang that simply can’t seem to shoot straight. It happened against last week with what should be non-controversial legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration.

U.S. Travel, a trade group, had laid out a sensible proposal that conservatives in Washington should have leaped on. Its plan would have eliminated five airport and airway trust fund taxes — the 7.5 percent domestic passenger sales tax, the $17.70-per-passinger international arrivals and departures fee, an $8.90-per-passenger tax on flights to Alaska and Hawaii, a 4.3 percent tax on commercial fuel and a 7.5 levee on mileage awards.

Overall, its plan would have saved travelers between $9.50 and $25.50 on a $340 ticket. And that’s even if Congress had taken up its proposal to raise the cap on the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) — the fees local airports charge to fund their infrastructure costs — from $4.50 to $8.50, a move that would have devolved power over airport renovations to states and localities.

So, in large part, a no-brainer vote for any sentient conservative. It strikes a blow for free trade and scraps federal taxes that go into big pots of money that end up distributed to cronies. It also increases the cap on a fee that lets local governments raise their own funds and direct them to their own priorities.

After all, who knows better what the Minneapolis airport needs, for example… the federal government or the people who run the Minneapolis airport? And in today’s charged political climate, a measure that could lead to increased revenues but devolves power to local authorities should have had appeal on both sides of the aisle.

Moreover, the fee has not been raised in nearly 20 years, and many of America’s airports are old, unable to keep up. and lacking in the resources to turn things around. Trump himself has compared New York’s LaGuardia Airport, one of the busiest in the world, to a “third world dump” and the airport’s director actually agrees with him.

Airlines for America, the airline trade group, says it opposes allowing airports to increase the Passenger Facility Charge because they already have $3 billion in the bank from these fees — an all-time high. But Christopher Ward, executive director of the New York-New Jersey Port Authority, which operates all three New York-area airports, said the LaGuardia project alone would cost $4 billion if he could find the money to do it, which he can’t.

“There exists a bipartisan recognition that adjusting the PFC cap is long overdue,” Jonathan Grella, U.S. Travel’s vice president for public affairs said. “After all, addressing the issue of airport infrastructure and airline competition are about as meaningful measures as lawmakers could hope to address in FAA renewal.”

The Airlines for America press release says it opposes the tax on behalf of its customers, the passengers. But it felt no such concern toward its customers on eliminating the other federal taxes involved or changing the rules on bag fees and other assessments the airlines now collect tax free.

One has only to look at the volatility of airline pricing — tickets for a flight months out cost more on Saturday than Tuesday for some reason that certainly doesn’t have to do with helping the customers — to realize those claims can’t be taken seriously.

The airlines didn’t get everything they wanted in the legislation either. The move to privatize air control by creating a non-profit to usher in new technology and move thousands of workers off the government payroll was left out.

But what was clear is the side of Washington that most infuriates voters this year was on display with this legislation. A common-sense proposal to devolve power to those most in position to respond to America’s airport crisis went by the boards because lobbyists from the airlines and unions opposed it. Special interests took precedence over the public interest.

Airlines for America expects more people to fly this spring than ever before. While it is high-fiving itself for killing the increase in the Passenger Facility Charge, it should remember those customers it says it cares so much about don’t step directly our of their cars onto its planes. They have to go through an airport.

And if the conditions of those airports continue to deteriorate, the people celebrating now may well wish they had let the Passenger Facility Charge increase. 

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