Hon. BUD SHUSTER,
DEAR CHAIRMAN SHUSTER: I am writing to congratulate you for introducing AIR-21, a bill to ensure adequate funding for the national air transportation system. Your proposal to require that federal aviation user taxes be used for their intended purposes--particularly development of airports and the air traffic system--is commendable. The needs of the aviation system are so massive that all available funds must be spent. The health of our economy depends to a very significant extent on a vibrant air transporation system.
I also applaud your inclusion in AIR-21 of a provision to lift the federally imposed restriction on the local airport funding option known as the passenger facility charge (PFC). As I stated in my letter of February 8, whenever there is an opportunity for the federal government to provide more autonomy to local governments, it should do so. Your bill does that. While it would be preferable to remove the PFC cap entirely, easing the federal restriction on local government funding prerogatives by doubling the amount of funds that airports can raise through this means is a constructive step. I urge you to continue to pursue the goal of eliminating the federal cap on PFC's, but in the meantime, I support the provision in your bill. I urge your colleagues in the House and Senate to support it as well.
It is also critical to ensure that airports have the ability to spend the PFC to meet the needs that exist at their particular facilities. For some airports, the needs are greatest on the airside--runways, taxiways, and aprons. At other airports, gates and related facilities throughout the terminal are needed to expand capacity or enhance competition. At still other airports, groundside access is the biggest problem. Given that PFCs are collected from the passenger, any project that makes the passenger's trip to or through the airport more efficient and less susceptible to congestion and delays--whether airside, in the terminal, or groundside--should be allowed.
I know that you are particularly concerned about protecting the interests of passengers. Ensuring that airports have the flexibility to use PFCs to fund projects that ease the burdens encountered by the traveling public any where at the airport will certainly be in the passengers' interest.
Again, I applaud your commitment to promote the development of the national air transportation system, for the benefit of our national and regional economies and the passengers and shippers who use the system.
Paul M. Weyrich,