Chance for Relief
Initiatives being pushed in the U.S. House offer long-term funding solutions for airports, states
BY Henry M. Ogrodzinski, President & CEO, Nasao
Governor Jesse Ventura said about his recent election in Minnesota, "I told them the truth, and they voted for me." What a concept. We can certainly use a dose of truth in federal budgeting and a bit of "trust" in the Airport and Airways Trust Fund. Perhaps some of our elected federal representatives should study the Governor's philosophy.
The Budget Resolution passed by the House in late March contained $730 billion in general tax cuts. This was reduced from the original proposal of $780 billion. Some of those playful scamps on Capitol Hill wanted to finance $50 billion of the original proposal by shamelessly raiding the projected surplus in the Aviation Trust Fund. Really.
Fortunately, the guys in the white hats came riding to the rescue: House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bud Shuster (R-PA), Ranking Member Jim Oberstar (D-MN), Aviation Subcommittee Chairman John Duncan (R-TN), and ranking Member William Lipinski (D-IL) are the leaders of the largest (75 members) and most bipartisan cooperative committee in Congress.
They are also strong advocates of unlocking the Aviation Trust Fund, which today has a surplus of about $9 billion. That surplus is projected to grow to over $90 billion by 2009. Some in Congress and the Administration find the temptation to use these aviation tax dollars for non-aviation purposes overwhelming. But Chairman Shuster and his colleagues persuaded Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL) to shield the trust fund from the tax-cutting scheme. Just as important, this same team convinced Speaker Hastert to bring AIR - 21 (also known as H.R. 1000) to the floor of the House for a straight up or down vote. At NASAO, we are guessing that the vote will take place this month (May).
H.R. 111 takes the aviation trust fund off budget; AIR - 21 promises a five-year AIP program funded at $5 billion annually. They are two of the most important pieces of legislation facing the 106th Congress.
Impact of the Industry
Our national economy is dependent upon a safe, secure, efficient, and relatively inexpensive national air transportation system. If we fail to invest in the system's infrastructure today, the economy eventually goes south taking Medicare, Social Security, and everything else with it. Every American is a beneficiary of our aviation system, which the National Civil Aviation Review Commission (NCARC) called, "one of the most significant engines for national economic growth."
Today, aviation accounts for more than 6 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and it is growing everyday. More than 1.5 million people work in the aerospace and airline industries, generating a payroll of more than $100 billion annually. To quote the NCARC report again, "The world's air travelers are expected to double from one billion to more than 2 billion over the next 20 years. The total economic impact of air transportion on the world economy was $1.4 trillion in 1994. This is expected to increase to over $1.7 trillion by the year 2010. Currently, over $1.5 trillion worth of air freight is moved around the globe annually."
Falling far short of predicted needs
As indicated at FAA's recent Commercial and General Aviation Forecast Conferences, many experts are now predicting even faster and more explosive growth trends across the board. Yet, our present infrastructure is incapable of handling current demand, and we are unprepared for the growth that is about to be thrust upon us.