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Industry should be waiting for airport bill to take flight

By Joe Lanane

The U.S. Congress has an opportunity to create more than 100,000 construction jobs, yet — in typical bureaucratic fashion — the bill is held up by a few minor details.

Nearly three years and 16 extensions later, a Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization bill continues to await presidential approval. Both the Senate and House have approved drastically different versions, and there is no compromise in sight.

So far, only occasionally have non-controversial portions of the bill been approved, none of which address the true deficiencies facing the aviation industry.

General Mitchell's interior.

General Mitchell's interior.

Yet to be approved is the Airport Improvement Program included in the bill, which would provide money toward airport infrastructure improvements across the U.S. In Wisconsin alone, this money is very much necessary to maintaining our existing airport facilities, both large and small.

There is also a provision enabling airports to boost the $4.50 maximum passenger facility charge it can use toward annual upgrades. This fee would rise to $7, if approved. Is the $2.50 increase per customer too much to expect? Airline advocates argue it is, but I think of it as a user tax — not dissimilar from other transportation-related user taxes we’re commonly assessed.

What seems like a burden on consumers will actually prove beneficial in the long run, said Greg Principato, president of Airports Council International-North America. In addition, many of the measures outlined in the bill address necessary safety upgrades.

Principato said his organization conservatively estimated 120,000 jobs created toward construction projects if this bill is approved. This, among all other provisions, should make this bill extremely appealing to our industry.

The Senate aviation subcommittee recently received a letter from 26 aviation-linked organizations requesting action finally be taken to move the industry forward.

If only our nation’s representatives could express the same solidarity.

Joe Lanane is a staff writer at The Daily Reporter. His views on user taxes do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Reporter (and especially do not represent those of the editor of this blog).

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