Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Advocates For Hawai'i, Fights Against Travel Fee Increase
February 25, 2015
Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) today testified before the House Committee on the Budget to state her opposition to a component of the Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2016 that increases a travel fee which would adversely affect the residents of Hawaii.
“The increased fee would have a major negative impact upon the residents who work and live in Hawaii,” said Congresswoman Gabbard. “With no interisland railway, highway, or ferry system, our residents have no other choice but to fly between islands. Air transportation is an essential lifeline for people in finding a job, starting a small business, going to see a doctor, and visiting family and friends. The doubling of the security fee has already had a noticeable impact. For example, the lowest base fare for flying from Honolulu to Maui is $54.33. The taxes and increased security fees escalate the price of the ticket by 25%. Another increase would only heighten the burden on our residents as they carry out the everyday responsibilities of life.”
A full transcript of Congresswoman Gabbard’s testimony is below
Chairman Price, Ranking Member Van Hollen, and Members of the House Budget Committee,
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to testify today on the budget. I am here to bring two issues to your attention – first, the critical role of air travel for certain communities and the disparate impact of fee increases on these areas; and second, my serious concerns about the troubling consequences of sequestration cuts to our military and the security of our nation.
The Bipartisan Budget Agreement of 2013 more than doubled the passenger security fee less than a year ago. However, the Administration’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2016 includes another fee increase in order to raise another $195 million.
The growth of the fee would have a devastating impact upon the residents who work and live in Hawaii. With no interisland railway, highway, or ferry system, our residents have no other choice but to fly between islands. Thus, air transportation is an essential lifeline for conducting business, receiving healthcare, and visiting family and friends.
Moreover, our interisland fares are priced so that the doubling of the security fee has had a noticeable effect on the price of an airline ticket. For example, the lowest base fare for flying from Honolulu to Maui is $54.33. The taxes and increased security fees escalate the price of the ticket by 25%. Another increase would only heighten the burden our residents pay to carry out the everyday responsibilities of life.
Even more concerning, this fee increase is not meant to improve TSA operations; its purpose is to raise $195 million for deficit reduction. This relies on a small portion of the population, the flying public, to pay for government spending under the guise of higher ticket prices.
In reaction to this proposal, I am reintroducing the Passenger Fee Restructuring Exemptions Act. This legislation would limit the passenger security fee for Hawaii, Alaska, and rural areas serviced by the Essential Air Service program to $2.50 per one-way trip because of the reliance on air travel by these areas.
In the past, Congress has recognized Hawaii’s unique reliance on air travel and made accommodations in taxes and fees. For example, current law exempts intrastate flights in Hawaii from passenger facility fees. The air transportation tax on domestic flights departing from Hawaii is half that imposed on flights in the contiguous 48 states. Further, the newly doubled passenger security fee is only charged once in non-contiguous areas if the second part of the round-trip flight is less than 12 hours after the first segment.
For these reasons, I urge you to reject President Obama’s proposal to increase the passenger security fee again. This fee would magnify the unique hardships endured by our most isolated areas and target the flying public to pay for unrelated government spending. If you find that the passenger security fee has to be increased, then I would urge you to take past precedent into account and exempt our non-contiguous and isolated areas from any increase.
Moreover, considering the national security threats that we face today and the uncertain threats we will likely face tomorrow, Congress should not allow a dramatic reduction in the size and capability of our nation’s military due to sequestration. These arbitrary, across-the-board cuts undermine our ability to make strategic decisions about how we confront dynamic and complex security challenges. The impacts of BCA-level funding constraints weaken the military’s ability to be ready to respond to protect our people and interests at home and around the world. For example, if the budget caps are adopted, the Army would be forced to cut tens of thousands of Soldiers from its ranks, and the Navy would cancel plans to buy key ships - all while demand for these resources will likely increase.
In closing, I urge you to work towards a budget solution that will provide sequestration relief, and make this effort a priority of the committee’s work. We are already seeing negative consequences of BCA-level funding on how prepared our military is, and the world we face today is very different from the one we faced even two years ago.
Thank you for your time today.