Justin Sykes

Updates from the Stop Obamacare Taxes Road Crew


Posted by Matthew Adams, Justin Sykes on Friday, October 6th, 2017, 4:36 PM PERMALINK

Allowing more Obamacare taxes to take effect in 2018 must be out of the question. If Congress fails to act the Obamacare Health Insurance Tax (HIT) will hit Americans on January 1, 2018. This tax alone could cause premiums to increase by $5,000 over a decade. ATR launched the “Stop Obamacare Taxes” bus tour in late September to keep pressure on Congress to delay and repeal all Obamacare taxes.

Continuing the march across the country, on Tuesday, October 3, the “Stop Obamacare Taxes” bus tour made its second stop in Denver, Colorado at the Pepsi Center before the WWE “Smackdown Live.”  The stadium seats over 18,000 people and was packed to the brim. The parking lot where the ATR tour bus was positioned was just as packed. As WWE fans headed into the stadium, many stopped to take pictures of the bus and to read about the pending Obamacare Taxes soon to take effect.

Many concerned citizens interested in learning about the looming tax hikes were asked to write their Congressmen urging a repeal of ALL Obamacare taxes. And those who really wanted to drive the message home about the need for repeal, received a camo koozie and a t-shirt that reads, “You can’t hide from Obamacare tax increases.”

ATR staff fielded questions from those in attendance, explaining how the trillions of new and enacted taxes under Obamacare will affect their lives, taking more hard-earned dollars out of their paychecks.

Numerous people opened up and shared their own stories about how Obamacare has already negatively impacted them, raising their premiums sky-high. 

Moving from Denver, the tour headed north through Fort Collins, Colorado into Wyoming, stopping along the journey to spread awareness to American taxpayers.

At an impromptu stop in Wheaton, Wyoming, dozens of residents approached the tour to share their own personal experiences under the law, and they were horrified to hear about the coming tax increases once the other Obamacare tax provisions take effect.

One story that stuck out was that of Robert Parks, an Air Force Veteran, retiree, and Wyoming resident who told ATR staff and fellow citizens about how his premiums used to be just slightly over $50, yet, after retirement and post-Obamacare, his premiums skyrocketed to over $500! Unfortunately, Mr. Parks is not alone, millions of Americans find themselves in the same situation, having to foot the bill for the exorbitant tax-hikes under the ACA.

After their departure from Wyoming, the crew headed to South Dakota, arriving in Rapid City on Wednesday. Throughout the day, over two dozen residents approached the tour to share stories regarding how Obamacare has negatively impacted their lives.

ATR Federal Affairs Manager, Justin Sykes, also did an interview in front of the bus for Rapid City’s KOTA News Station. See the video above.

The next stop for the “Stop Obamacare Taxes” bus will be in Wisconsin, stay tuned for more details!

Photo Credit: Justin Sykes

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ATR Supports EPA Administrator Pruitt's Work to Rein In RFS

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Wednesday, October 4th, 2017, 12:18 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist this week commended EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's work to reign in the harmful impacts of fuel mandates put in place under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). 

"EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's work to address problems inherent with the Renewable Fuel Standard mandates will benefit American energy consumers and should be commended by conservatives and lawmakers.

"This year Administrator Pruitt has taken the first steps to begin reducing statutory requirements for the 2018 biomass based diesel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel volumes under the RFS. Administrator Pruitt is also working to put in place reductions in the 2019 volume requirements.

"Under the former Obama-EPA the RFS program represented protectionist policy at its worst, negatively impacting everything from the cost and efficiency of fuel, to food prices and even the environment.

"The EPA's approach to the RFS and it's volume requirements under Administrator Pruitt is a positive step forward for U.S. energy, consumers and the environment."

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore


ATR Support Rep. Mullin's Amendments on Methane and Social Cost of Carbon


Posted by Justin Sykes on Tuesday, September 5th, 2017, 10:24 AM PERMALINK

This week the U.S House of Representatives is set to vote on the 2018 “Department of Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations” or H.R. 3354. Americans for Tax Reform urges House lawmakers to support and vote for two amendments being offered by Representative Markwayne Mullin (R-Ok).

The first amendment being offered by Representative Mullin to H.R. 3554 would prohibit funds for enforcing the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) methane rule issued under former President Obama.

The EPA methane rule targets America’s oil and gas industry and simply put, is a regulation in search of a problem. While oil and gas production has increased over 25 percent since 2005, related methane emissions have actually decreased almost 40 percent during that same period. Such reductions are due in part to advances in technology made by the energy industry, advances that ironically could be stymied moving forward by the lack of flexibility inherent in the rule.

The EPA’s methane rule also would come with a hefty price tag with resulting compliance costs projected to be in the hundreds of millions. According to the EPA’s own estimates, the rule could cost over $530 million in 2025. Industry estimates also show the rule could cost motorists over $500 in higher prices at the pump annually, and reduce disposable income by $1,337 each year for average American families.

Representative Mullin is also offering an amendment to H.R. 3354 that would prohibit funding for the Obama Administration’s Social Cost of Carbon rule. Under President Obama the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) was established to require that SCC estimates be taken into account in agency rulemakings and regulatory actions.

The primary issue with the SCC is that it is fatally flawed and wholly arbitrary. SCC models have no basis in economic theory and as MIT Professor Robert Pindyck has explained, SCC estimates are “close to useless” for guiding policymakers.

Americans for Tax Reform applauds Representative Mullin for taking on these two important issues that have remained as detrimental reminders of the regulatory overreach that characterized the Obama Administration.

House lawmakers should support and vote for these two important amendments to H.R. 3354 that would prohibit funding for the EPA’s costly and economically detrimental methane rule, and the arbitrary and flawed Social Cost of Carbon. 

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ATR Applauds Secretary Zinke's Efforts to Improve Antiquities Act Designations

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Thursday, August 24th, 2017, 3:50 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist issued the following statement today praising Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke’s efforts to highlight some of the most prevalent issues facing national monument designations under the Antiquities Act. 

Secretary Zinke and the Department of Interior (DOI) issued a report this week in response to an Executive Order issued by President Trump in April directing DOI to study the Antiquities Act and monument designation process. 

“The actions taken today by Secretary of Interior Zinke represent a huge step forward in highlighting the need for bringing more transparency and accountability to the national monument designation process under the Antiquities Act.

“For too long the Antiquities Act has allowed for the unbridled abuse of executive power, far beyond what lawmakers intended when the Act was first passed. The Antiquities Act has permitted past Presidents to designate vast swaths of public land as national monuments unilaterally, often with little to no input from affected stakeholders.

“In recent decades the size and scope of public land designations has increased exponentially with the Act having been used 26 times in the last 20 years to designate monuments well over 100,000 acres in size. Many designations have been made despite a lack of historically recognized significance, such as landmarks, prehistoric structures, or historic objects.

“Under former President Obama Americans witnessed the extent to which executive authority under the Antiquities Act could be abused. During the Obama Presidency the average size of monument designations was over 190 times larger than when the Act was first used under President Roosevelt. Currently 66 percent of the land and water mass of all national monuments was designated solely by the Obama Administration.

“Secretary Zinke’s work to highlight abuses and inefficiencies within the national monument designation process is a positive step towards reining in unchecked executive authority under the Antiquities Act. By focusing on positive reforms the Secretary has taken the first step to begin restoring the voice of rural communities and local stakeholders in federal land decisions, and rebuilding public trust.

“I look forward to working with Secretary Zinke and President Trump to improve transparency and accountability under the Antiquities Act and the national monument designation process.”

 

Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Interior

 

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ATR Joins Coalition Calling on Congress to Repeal CFPB Arbitration Rule

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Monday, July 24th, 2017, 3:38 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) this week joined a coaltion of 26 free-market, limited-government, and liberty-oriented groups calling on Congressional lawmakers to use the powers granted under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to repeal the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's (CFPB) recently published rule relating to arbitration agreements.  

The CFPB’s arbitration rule would do little in the way of benefiting American consumers, and instead would result in a flood of class-action lawsuits putting more money in the pockets of trial lawyers. The arbitration rule would cost consumers billions and lead to a projected 6,000 class action lawsuits every five years. 

According to the CFPB’s own study, average payouts to consumers after litigation was less than $2.00 per person, which is significantly lower that the amount awarded during the arbitration process. The same study found that only 20 percent of class-action lawsuits are approved and among those the average wait time for a settlement was roughly three years. This is compared to the arbitration process where the wait time is an average of only 6.9 months. 

Text of the letter is below and can be found here.

Dear Speaker Ryan and Senate Majority Leader McConnell: 

We, the following free-market, limited-government, and liberty-oriented organizations, ask you to use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to reverse recently published rules promulgated by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) ending long-held policy allowing for binding arbitration contracts. Failure to reverse this regulation will result in an avalanche of class-action lawsuits that will hurt jobs and do little to benefit consumers.

The CFPB’s arbitration rule has been described as “Christmas in July” for America’s trial lawyers – and rightly so. According to the CFPB’s own finding, the rule will cost consumers billions of dollars and unleash over 6,000 class action lawsuits every five years. This rule is an obstacle to the efforts to right America’s fiscal ship and create jobs and prosperity for the American people. 

Class action lawsuits primarily benefit the trial lawyers rather than the plaintiffs they claim to represent. One extreme example regarding the Bank of Boston even resulted in some of the “winning” plaintiffs owing more in legal fees to lawyers,  who walked away with millions, than the meager winnings they received. Class-action lawsuits all too often benefit no one but lawyers, and arbitration provides a fair alternative that should not be prohibited by regulatory fiat.

The CFPB's own report provides undermines the case for relying exclusively on class-action lawsuits. Of the minority of cases filed between 2010 and 2013 that were later settled, consumers received on average only $32, while lawyers received $424 million in total fees. This disparity is due in part to the fact that claims are never filed by the vast majority of those in an eligible class, and lawyers receive fees based on inflated award figures that are never paid out.

There are also significant issues with the structure of the CFPB and its overall lack of accountability to elected officials. A United States Court of Appeals has held that “when measured in terms of unilateral power, the Director of the CFPB is the single most powerful official in the entire U.S. Government, other than the President. Indeed, within his jurisdiction, the Director of the CFPB can be considered even more powerful than the President.” 

As a rehearing of this ruling on the CFPB's constitutionality by the full Circuit is currently underway, and Congress weighs its own various options to rein in the unaccountable agency, CFPB should at the very least be prevented from instituting major new rules that could disrupt large segments of the economy until such issues are resolved. This is a prime opportunity for members of Congress to uphold their oaths to support and defend the Constitution by safeguarding the nation from costly new CFPB regulations.

The Congressional Review Act provides 60 legislative days for Congress to reverse the CFPB's decision. Each day, the clock ticks and the window of opportunity closes. We urge you to work together and reverse this job-killing regulation promulgated by an agency that is unconstitutionally structured.

 

Photo credit: Phil Roeder 

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ATR Opposes PFC Increase in THUD Appropriations Act

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Monday, July 24th, 2017, 12:28 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) President Grover Norquist this week sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee urging members to oppose any efforts to include an increase of the fee known as the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) in the 2018 Senate Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD) Approrpiations Act. 

The letter reiterates ATR's long held opposition to increasing the PFC, and reminds Senate lawmakers that increasing or uncapping the PFC is wholly unecessary. Currently U.S. airports are enjoying record levels of revenue and have over $12 billion in unrestricted cash and investment on hand. It is also the case that in 2016 the PFC brought in record highs of over $3.1 billion, and revenue for 2017 is projected to increase to over $3.36 billion. 

Increasing the PFC is wildly unjustified and would come at the expense of the traveling public, which already pay over 20% in government taxes an fees on an average domestic flight.  

Text of the letter is below and can be found here

Dear Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee:

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), and millions of taxpayers nationwide, I write to reiterate ATR’s long held opposition to efforts to increase the fee known as the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC).

ATR is specifically opposed to any efforts to include a PFC increase in the 2018 Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Act.

As you may know, many airports, along with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), have advocated for increasing the PFC, arguing such an increase is needed in order to continue infrastructure investments. However, it is entirely possible for airports to continue making such improvements without increasing the cost of flying.

According to recent financial reports filed with the FAA, US airports have over $12.7 billion in unrestricted cash and investments on hand, which equates to 362 days of liquidity. Additionally, the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF) is at its highest level since 2001, with an uncommitted balance of $6 billion.

FAA reports show that U.S. airports brought in a record $27 billion in 2015 alone. This included record highs of $10.7 billion from airline rents and fees and $9.1 billion from non-airline revenues such as retail and food and beverage.

Government taxes and fees already overburden air passengers – taxes make up over 20% of the cost of an average domestic flight. In 2016 the PFC brought in a record high of over $3.1 billion and revenue for 2017 is projected to increase to over $3.36 billion.

It is for these reasons that ATR opposes any efforts to include a PFC increase in the 2018 Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Act.

Sincerely,

Grover G. Norquist

President

Americans for Tax Reform 

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Happy Birthday Dodd-Frank…Hope It’s Your Last!

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Friday, July 21st, 2017, 11:17 AM PERMALINK

Today marks exactly seven years since President Obama signed into law the costly and burdensome Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. While the goal of Dodd-Frank Act was to protect financial consumers and “reign in Wall Street” following the 2008 financial crisis, the last seven years have proven that goal has not come to fruition and instead financial consumers, small banks and credit unions have been crushed by this disastrous law.

For America’s financial consumers, the Dodd-Frank Act has failed on all accounts. Misguided provisions such as anti-free market price caps instituted under the Durbin Amendment have all but eviscerated free checking accounts, driven up average minimum deposits and increased monthly checking account maintenance fees.

For instance in 2009, 75 percent of banks offered free checking accounts. Following the passage of Dodd-Frank and the Durbin Amendment in 2010, that number dropped to 45 percent the following year, and has now fallen to under 40 percent today.

According to an April 2017 study by the International Center for Law and Economics, in 1999 the average minimum deposit required in order to avoid fees on non-interest-bearing accounts was $562.27. The minimum fell to $109.28 in 2008. Yet after the Durbin Amendment passed, the minimum skyrocketed to $732.02 in 2012 and stands at $670.74 as of 2016.

Reduced free checking and increased minimum deposits and fees resulting from Dodd-Frank’s Durbin Amendment have proven incredibly regressive for low-income financial consumers and have led to millions of Americans becoming “unbanked.” 

As more Americans are pushed further out the traditional banking system by Dodd-Frank provisions, they have turned to alternative financial products such as prepaid debit cards, which serve a similar function as traditional bank accounts but are seen as more affordable given increased costs on traditional checking accounts due to Dodd-Frank. 

Amounts placed on prepaid cards have grown from $1 billion in 2003 to a projected $112 billion by 2018. According to a 2014 report from The Pew Charitable Trusts, of the estimated 23 million consumers using prepaid cards a quarter were low-income, with a third having annual income below $15,000.  However the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), another creation of Dodd-Frank, is now ironically working to end prepaid debit cards through a rule set to go into effect in 2018. 

Thus not only has Dodd-Frank driven many consumers, especially low-income Americans, out of the traditional banking system, but has allowed the CFPB to outlaw one of the last remaining and affordable financial products they have left. As Representative Ted Budd (R-NC) has stated, “Dodd-Frank has sawed off the bottom rung of the ladder of economic mobility.”

While the detrimental impact Dodd-Frank has had on American financial consumers is atrocious, it is also the case that Dodd-Frank has drowned U.S. credit unions and community banks in a sea of regulatory costs and an ever-growing compliance burden. According to a 2016 study by the American Action Forum, Dodd-Frank has imposed more than $36 billion in final rule costs and 73 million hours of paperwork.

Unlike their larger competitors, small credit unions and community banks don’t have armies of compliance lawyers or funds available to afford the regulatory burden imposed by Dodd-Frank. It is now the case that one in every four credit union employees time is spent on regulatory compliance, adding up to an additional $6.1 billion in costs for credit unions in 2014 alone. As a result of Dodd-Frank, an average of one small financial institution shutters or is consolidated everyday. 

Thankfully this year House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) has been leading the effort to enact massive reforms to the Dodd-Frank Act in order to protect American financial consumers and small financial institutions. Chairman Hensarling’s Financial CHOICE Act (H.R. 10), which passed the House in June 233-186, targets many of the most onerous and costly provisions of Dodd-Frank for reform and repeal. While the CHOICE Act faces an uphill battle in the Senate, it highlights the need for lawmakers to remain focused on reigning in Dodd-Frank.

Thus as the Dodd-Frank Act turns seven years old today lawmakers in Congress should take time to reflect on the disaster Dodd-Frank has become for their constituents and the markets as a whole. 

Happy Birthday Dodd-Frank! Hope it’s your last!

 

Photo Credit: Steve Jurvetson

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ATR Applauds Pruitt EPA for Moving to Rescind WOTUS

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Wednesday, June 28th, 2017, 11:48 AM PERMALINK

This week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under the direction of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, announced its decision to rescind the costly and burdensome Obama-era "Waters of the United States Rule" commnonly referred to as WOTUS. 

Americans for Tax Reform applauds EPA Administrator Pruitt and his agency for the leadership shown in taking steps to protect the property rights of American landowners and businesses by addressing the federal overreach inherent in WOTUS. 

Speaking on the proposed rescisicion, Administrator Pruitt this week said the EPA is "taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation's farmer's and businesses." 

The rule proposed by former President Obama would have drastically expanded the EPA's jurisdiction, making small waterways such as wetlands and ponds subject to increased federal rules and permitting processes. According to the Obama EPA's own projections, the increased permitting burden under WOTUS could have cost American property owners and small businesses between $158 million and $465 million annually.    

In 2015 then Oklahoma Attorney General Pruitt, joined by 17 other states, successfully led a challenge to block implemnetation of WOTUS. Speaking at the time on the Sixth Circuirt Court of Appeal's decision, Pruitt stated that WOTUS is a "devastating blow to private property rights and is an unlawful power grab by the EPA over virtually all bodies of water in the United States." 

Now with Pruitt leading the EPA, the agency is able to roll back this harmful rule. The new rule proposed by Pruitt's EPA would rescind WOTUS and provide certainty in the interim pending a second rulemaking which the EPA, along with the Army Corps of Engineers, could engage in a substantive re-evaluation of the rule.

 

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore 

 

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ATR Urges Senate Lawmakers to Oppose PFC Increase

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Monday, June 26th, 2017, 12:58 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform this week released a letter urging members of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee to oppose any efforts to include an increase of the fee known as the Passenger Facility Charge (PCF) in the Senate's recently introduced bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The PFC program allows for the collection of PFC fees for enplaned passengers at commercial airports controlled by public agencies, with revenue going to fund airport improvement projects. The PFC is currently capped at $4.50 and maintaining the PFC at this level is a benefit to the traveling public. 

Revenue generated in recent years by commercial airports has been record breaking, in addition to record breaking amounts of revenue generated from the PFC. Thus it is wholly possible for airports to continue making improvements without incresing the cost of flying for passengers. 

The recently released Senate FAA reauthorization bill did not include any provisions to uncap or increase the PFC and Senate lawmakers should oppose any future efforts to amend the bill that would increase or uncap the PFC. 

Full text of the letter is below and can also be found here

June 26, 2017

Dear Chairman Thune and Ranking Member Nelson: 

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), and millions of taxpayers nationwide, I write to reiterate ATR’s long held opposition to efforts to increase the fee known as the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC).

Proposals to allow for uncapping and increasing the PFC represent an unnecessary and unfair burden to airline passengers and should not be included in the Senate’s recently released bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Given the current record levels of revenue and PFC collections at airports, it is entirely possible for airports to continue making such improvements without increasing the cost of flying. 

According to recent financial reports filed with the FAA, US airports have over $12.7 billion in unrestricted cash and investments on hand, which equates to 362 days of liquidity. Additionally, the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF) is at its highest level since 2001, with an uncommitted balance of $6 billion.

FAA reports show that U.S. airports brought in a record $27 billion in 2015 alone. This included record highs of $10.7 billion from airline rents and fees and $9.1 billion from non-airline revenues such as retail and food and beverage.

Government taxes and fees already overburden air passengers – taxes make up over 20% of the cost of an average domestic flight. In 2016 the PFC brought in a record high of over $3.1 billion and PFC revenue for 2017 is projected to increase to over $3.36 billion.

It is for these reasons Americans for Tax Reform urges members of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee to oppose any efforts to include uncapping or increasing the PFC as part of the Senate FAA reauthorization bill.

Sincerely,                                   

Grover G. Norquist                                                         
President                                                                       
Americans for Tax Reform

 

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ATR Urges Support for Davis-Cohen Airport Tax Amendment to House FAA Bill

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Monday, June 26th, 2017, 10:08 AM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform this week released a letter to House Transportation and Infastructure Committee members urging support for the bipartisan amendment being offered by Representative Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN) to the House FAA reauthorization bill (H.R. 2997).

The Davis-Cohen amendment would correct a long-standing issue with how revenue from the assessmenet of taxes, fees, and charges upon businesses located at commercial service airports is used. The problem the Davis-Cohen amendment would address is that often revenue generated from taxes and fees levied at commercial service airports is diverted and used for non-aviation purposes outside of the airport. 

The amendment being offered as part of the House's FAA reauthorization bill would resolve this issue by ensuring revenue from any tax, fee, or charge levied upon any business located at a commercial service airport remains at the airport and is used solely for aviation purposes. 

The full text of the letter is below and can also be found here

June 26, 2017

Dear Chairman Shuster, Ranking Member DeFazio, Chairman LoBiondo and Ranking Member Larsen:

Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) urges your support for the bipartisan amendment being offered by Representative Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN) to the House FAA reauthorization bill, H.R. 2997. 

The Davis-Cohen amendment offers a common sense solution to issues surrounding the manner in which revenue from the assessment of taxes, fees, and charges upon businesses located at commercial service airports is used.

It is often the case that revenue generated from taxes and fees levied at commercial service airports is diverted and used for non-aviation related purposes outside of the airport. This diversion of revenue generated at airports is wholly inequitable and deprives America’s airports of revenue that should be used solely for aviation related projects and infrastructure. 

The FAA Authorization Act of 1994 attempted to address this issue however local and state governments have utilized a loophole in the 1994 Act as it applies to the “exclusivity” requirement where such taxes may be imposed if a single business outside of the airport is also subject to the tax.

The amendment being offered by Representatives Davis and Cohen would resolve this issue, by ensuring that revenue from any tax, fee, or charge levied upon any business located at a commercial service airport remains at the airport and is used solely for aviation related purposes.

Americans for Tax Reform urges House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee members to support inclusion of the Davis-Cohen Airport Tax amendment in the House FAA reauthorization bill. 

Sincerely,                                   

Grover G. Norquist                                                         
President                                                                       
Americans for Tax Reform

 

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