Aviation places Two in the Top 10 of Hill wins for 2013; what does that Really mean for 2014?

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Article: Top 10 lobbying victories of 2013

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It’s the time of year when the pundits expound on a variety of accomplishments/failures for the expiring year of 2013—best song, best book, worst lie, stupidest move, etc. The Hill has issued its judgment of the Top 10 lobbying victories in 2013. What is surprising is that aviation associations made this vaunted tally twice:

“4. Airlines for America, Air Line Pilots Association, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, National Air Traffic Controllers Association

Airlines and aviation unions got Congress to blink on the spending cuts from sequestration.

Facing a backlash from fliers, lawmakers this spring allowed the Federal Aviation Administration to grab funding elsewhere to stop agency furloughs. The pressure was generated in part by the airlines, which harnessed passenger frustration over late flights and slow security lines.

The airlines appeared to suffer a defeat this month when the budget deal raised the passenger fees that fund airport security — but lobbyists won two concessions. The pact also ends a separate fee on airlines, and forces the Transportation Security Administration to bear some security costs. “

And

”8. Aerospace Industries Association, NDD United, National Association of Manufacturers

The defense industry and public interest groups made some gains this year in their long battle to reverse the cuts from sequestration.

Defense contractors, manufacturers and a coalition of education, faith and public interest groups demanded that Congress roll back some of the blunt spending cuts before 2014 began.

They earned a two-year reprieve in the budget deal worked out between Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) that returns $63 billion to government coffers while setting a precedent that could shape future agreements.”

To place two out of the Top 10 suggests that the aviation industry may be improving in its influence on the Hill. Hopefully, The Hill is right, but closer analysis makes one wonder if this judgment is all that expert.

The battle to restore Air Traffic Control funds from the Sequestration Cut was epic, but the above paragraph seems to fail to note two critical aspects of this #4 victory. First, major players in this battle included AAAE and its associated US Contract Tower Association. They supported the overall drive to restore funds for the operation of towers, TRACONs and centers, but they fought to get the funds restored to 238 contract towers over the adamant opposition of the FAA. Second, the win was not without its aggravations to the airports and other aviation industry groups; for the money used to replenish all of the diminished ATC services was from the AIP Trust Fund, a tax collected from air passengers to be spent on airport infrastructure. Robbing Peter to pay Peter?

The #8 ranked victory report also has its flaws from the civil aviation perspective. The source for the partial DeSequestration of the DoD budget was an escalating tax, not user fee, on passengers who pass through the TSA process. Those dollars do not go to fund any of the security agency’s operations, but are allocated to replenish the military programs. As noted before , this new tax will impact airline passenger demand and that will cascade into diminished need for airports and airplanes. That’s not a good result.

The aviation industry faces substantial legislative challenges in 2014 and the near term—funding/governance of NextGen, the FAA Reauthorization bill. While clout, as evidenced by this article, is important, true industry consensus on solutions will be needed to see solutions which are beneficial to all sectors of this business .

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