Arkansas has made impressive economic progress in the past seven years. In the first quarter of 2016, Arkansas led the nation in gross domestic product growth at 3.9 percent. Our unemployment rate is 0.5 percent lower than the national average, and confidence in our state as a place to do business continues to grow.
Both at the national and state levels, progress is being made to reduce the tax burden on Arkansas families and spur growth for Arkansas businesses and our economy. It has been my honor to serve as chairman of the Arkansas Senate Insurance and Commerce Committee and serve as a member of the Senate Tax and Revenue Committee during this period of tax cuts, job growth and government reform.
Unfortunately, at the same time that Congress is implementing tax reform, some interest groups are pushing a proposal to increase fees on airline passengers--an anti-growth policy that will hit Arkansas families and businesses right in the pocketbook.
We cannot let this happen.
Airline travelers currently pay a passenger facility charge of $4.50 on each leg of a commercial airline flight. While those fees are built into the ticket price, that money goes to local airports, not the airlines. Right now in Washington, airports are asking Congress to increase the charge by $4 on each originating flight--which would add an additional $8 to every round-trip ticket.
That's right, the same people charging you $13 per day to park your car and $3 for a bottle of water want more of your hard-earned money.
The largest Arkansas airports in Little Rock and Northwest Arkansas had 1.69 million passenger enplanements in 2016, and roughly the same number of passengers deplaning. Increasing the passenger facility charge by $4 would result in an additional $6.8 million in higher fees for passengers departing the state, and another $6.8 million on passengers coming to Arkansas.
Businesses that require a high volume of air travel would see a significant increase to their bottom line, and that could affect the choices they make when it comes to methods of travel for their employees.
Group travel by universities, sports teams, and church groups would see a significant increase in their travel costs as a result of this proposal.
And a family of four traveling to see loved ones over Christmas would pay an additional $32 in new fees to the government on top of the $36 to $72 they pay today.
So why are airports asking for these higher fees? They say it's because they need more money for infrastructure improvements.
But the truth is that the airports already have plenty. Nationally, airports collected $3.2 billion in passenger facility charge revenue in 2016 and are sitting on billions of unused funds today. In fact, Clinton National Airport had more than $10 million in unused funds at the end of 2016.
As an elected official, I have a responsibility to the people of Arkansas to ensure I am supporting policies that support a healthy business climate. I believe that an increase in passenger facility charge funds will negatively affect our businesses, our families, our universities, and our civic organizations.
Piling on taxes and fees does not encourage economic growth. At all levels of government, we should be trying to cut taxes and fees, not increase them. That's why raising the passenger facility charge is a bad idea and one that the Arkansas congressional delegation should reject.
Please contact your congressman and encourage him to oppose raising the passenger facility charge. It is the right thing to do.
Sen. Jason Rapert represents District 35 in the state Senate, is the chairman of the Senate Insurance and Commerce Committee, and serves as president of the National Council of Insurance Legislators.
Editorial on 01/15/2018
Print Headline: A bad move