BOSTON -- With opposition mounting, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Thursday that he is "still looking at" how much to charge air travelers for a program that would speed them through airport security.
Chertoff said he supports the idea of making people in the Registered Traveler program "pay their own weight," which could cost up to $200 a year.
"We shouldn't necessarily have the taxpayer pay to subsidize people who want to go through the Registered Traveler program," Chertoff told reporters at Boston's Logan International Airport. "We want to be fair. ... Now exactly what the right amount of money is going to be and how that's going to work, I think, is something we're still looking at."
Chertoff's comments come days after the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) disclosed that it plans to charge travelers $100 to $120 to enroll in Registered Traveler and at least $70 a year for every year after their first in the program. The Homeland Security Department oversees the TSA.
The government costs are in addition to roughly $80 annually that program participants would have to pay to companies operating the program.
Under Registered Traveler, people who pass a voluntary background check would receive a fingerprint-embedded ID card that would give them access to special security lanes with expedited screening.
The heftier charge stunned some TSA advocates. On Thursday, a coalition of 10 companies seeking to provide services for Registered Traveler called on the TSA to reduce the fee, saying it will "stunt, if not eliminate" the program.
The group, called the Voluntary Credentialing Industry Coalition, also questioned whether the TSA can charge fees to recoup costs of TSA screeners at Registered Traveler checkpoints. Of the $100 the TSA proposes charging, $70 would pay for screener salaries.
TSA chief Kip Hawley defended the proposed fee after a news conference here with Chertoff and said that $100 is "a reasonable estimate" of the cost for each Registered Traveler.