WASHINGTON -- The Concord Coalition today announced its strong opposition to H.R.1000, the Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR-21), because it would take the aviation trust fund "off budget."
Concord opposes this proposal because it would allow virtually unrestricted spending from the trust fund, make a mockery of the budget process and threaten every other use of prospective budget surpluses, from Social Security and Medicare reform to debt reduction and tax relief.
In letter to Members of Congress, Concord Coalition Policy Director Robert Bixby warns that aviation spending is an important national priority, but not so important as to justify this assault on fiscal discipline. Despite the current budget environment of extremely tight discretionary spending caps, AIR-21 "would vastly increase aviation spending over the next five years, and then pretend that it doesn't really count because most of it is moved off-budget. Such antics belong in a magic show, not in the budget process.
"The Concord Coalition firmly believes that every line of the budget must be on the table when the tough choices are made. In setting national priorities, Congress has the responsibility to carefully assess each program. There is no sound policy rationale for exempting aviation programs from the scrutiny that all other programs must endure. If Congress wishes to increase the nation's investment in aviation, it should do so, but not by permanently putting this one category of spending ahead of other competing federal priorities.
"If the aviation trust fund is moved off-budget and spending is increased as proposed in AIR-21, the projected budget surplus over the next five years will be reduced by $39 billion. Regardless of whether you believe that this surplus should be reserved for Social Security reform, a Medicare drug benefit, tax relief or debt reduction, AIR-21 would skim the first $39 billion off the top.
"And what if the projected surpluses fail to materialize? The aviation trust would still get to spend its $39 billion, courtesy of the Social Security trust fund. In other words, AIR-21 gives Chairman Shuster and his successors a permanent pass key to the Social Security lock box approved by 416 House Members just last month.
"The Concord Coalition is equally opposed to any proposal that would erect a budgetary firewall around the aviation trust fund. …The Concord Coalition has long warned against the unconstrained growth of entitlement spending. Building firewalls within the discretionary side of the budget simply compounds the problem by, in effect, creating new entitlements by another name," Bixby said.