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Washington, DC, July 13, 2017 – As Congress considers H.R. 2997, a bill to privatize the nation’s air traffic control (ATC) system, the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) noted that myriad concerns over the legislation continue to be raised, most recently by a top House Democrat and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), a non-partisan scorekeeper on a bill’s cost to taxpayers.
Rep. Richard Neal (D-1-MA), the top Democrat on the House Committee on Ways and Means, flagged an important issue in a July 12 letter to the committee chairman, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-8-TX). Brady has waived initial jurisdiction over H.R. 2997, even though it makes significant tax-policy changes.
In his letter, Neal noted that the bill would shift jurisdiction of nearly $14 billion in air transportation excise taxes to a private board, which would set the user fees that all airlines and their passengers pay to utilize the ATC system. Those matters are currently under the purview of the Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over taxes and revenue.
“While we may disagree on the merits of Chairman Shuster’s proposal with respect to privatization, I believe we share a strong interest in maintaining and enforcing the Committee’s jurisdiction,” Neal wrote. “Specifically, we should not waive jurisdiction over matters of revenue collection. The Committee’s exclusive jurisdiction over revenue measures reflects the grave importance of their consideration in the Congress; we should work together to ensure that these issues receive the Committee’s full attention.”
Neal noted that the bill would impact jobs across the United States, and he emphasized that the committee must do its best to ensure that the bill doesn’t harm the economy.
“I urge that any consideration of H.R. 2997, including a possible tax title that could be added to such legislation, be undertaken under regular order, including discussion in a public hearing and a full legislative markup,” he said.
Neal’s letter came on the same day the CBO issued a report, which estimated that legislation to privatize the ATC system could swell the federal budget deficit by more than $20 billion, from 2018-2027.
NBAA has long held significant concerns with the notion of privatizing ATC, which would turn control of the system – a natural monopoly that currently serves the public’s interest, and is overseen by the public’s elected representatives in Congress – over to a new entity governed by private interests unaccountable to congressional oversight.
NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen said these most recent developments serve to further heighten skepticism over the controversial legislation.
“These red flags are in addition to the serious reservations about H.R. 2997 that have already been expressed by more than 100 aviation organizations, as well as groups on the political right and left, legislators from both parties at the federal and local levels, and most American citizens,” Bolen said. “Everyone wants to continue modernizing the nation’s aviation system, but we shouldn’t confuse that with what is clearly a privatization plan that carries risks on a number of levels.”