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Congress should shoot down federal cash grab aimed at airlines: editorial
October 24, 2011
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  • October 23, 2011
    By The Plain Dealer Editorial Board

    It’s not fair to use the nation’s airlines, several of which are struggling in a tough economy, as a deficit-cutting piggybank.

    When President Barack Obama last month unveiled his ideas to cut the deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, the revenue feature that drew most attention was his “Buffett Rule” proposal to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans. But the plan had other facets, including new fees on everyone who rides in a commercial airliner.
    The administration proposed a $100 tax on all flight segments, plus at least tripling the current $2.50 security fee on each passenger ticket by 2017. The proposal would have a disproportionate impact on regional airline hubs such as Cleveland and ought to be a nonstarter.

    It’s also not fair to use the nation’s airlines, several of which continue to struggle in a tough economy, as a deficit-cutting piggybank. Federal taxes and fees already add about 20 percent to the cost of every ticket, but at least those levies are earmarked for aviation-related costs, including the Federal Aviation Administration and post-9/11 airport security. According to the airlines, the administration wants to use most of what’s generated by the new fees to pay down the deficit.

    As important as it is to reduce Washington’s red ink, this isn’t the way to do it.

    User fees, as a rule, ought to pay for something related to the activity that generates them; using gas tax receipts to pay for roads is the most obvious example. But this looks as if the administration went hunting for an easy target: the 100 million or so Americans who fly for business or pleasure every year.

    This is one idea Congress’s deficit-reduction “supercommittee” ought to reject.

    Date: 2011-10-23