Rep. Stewart is Wrong About Airport Infrastructure

To the editor:

In an Aug. 23 column, Rep. Trey Stewart (R-Presque Isle) argued that airports were currently flush with money and that the solutions to the airport infrastructure plan being considered in Washington would be bad for rural Mainers. He is wrong on both accounts.
There is absolutely no question that American airports — including those here in Maine — face serious infrastructure needs. According to a recent study, airports are facing more than $128 billion in unmet needs.

Rep. Stewart mentions the airport trust fund currently has $7 billion in reserves. Even if airports were allowed to use this money (which they are not; unlike airlines, airports can not simply declare bankruptcy and walk away), that money would not even begin to scratch the surface of the needs facing airports today.

Rep. Stewart also speaks glowingly about money received from the airport improvement program (AIP). AIP dollars are federal taxpayer dollars that come from you and your neighbors — regardless of whether or not you use the airports they support.

We at FreedomWorks believe that market forces — not the federal government — should be what drives a 21st-century aviation policy in this country, which is why we know that the passenger facility charge (PFC) is best way for airports to meet their infrastructure needs without raising taxes or requiring additional federal spending.

We need a system that will allow decisions at the local level and a system where airport users bear the responsibility of paying for that use — not taxpayers. In order to do so, Congress should remove the federally imposed cap on the PFC.

We believe the responsibility for financing infrastructure needs at airports should be borne by the airports and the travelers who use and directly benefit from those facilities, not by taxpayers. By removing the federally imposed cap on the PFC, airports can break their addiction to federal taxpayer dollars.

The PFC is not a tax and anyone claiming so is either lying or uninformed. The PFC is a user fee and is a model of how we can meet our nation’s serious infrastructure needs without spending money we don’t have or burdening the general public with higher taxes, which is why it is supported by free market groups like FreedomWorks, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Citizens Against Government Waste, the Taxpayer Protection Alliance and others.

In July, a bipartisan measure was introduced by Rep. Thomas Massie and Rep. Earl Blumenauer. HR 3791, the Investing in America: Rebuilding America’s Airport Infrastructure Act, would remove the federally imposed cap on the PFC and actually save taxpayer dollars by requiring airports who go to an uncapped PFC to return taxpayer funding they currently receive from the AIP.

If Washington really wants to protect the taxpayers of rural Maine, they should remove the cap on the PFC and let airports raise the funds necessary to take care of their own infrastructure needs.