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Campbell, Savage Press for Action on Aviation Bill
Conferees Reach Accord

By Kevin McCarty
March 6, 2000

Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell and Tulsa Mayor M. Susan Savage told members of the House Aviation Subcommittee that Congressional action this year on a multi-year aviation bill was crucial to continued economic growth. The Conference leaders also expressed the strong support of the nation’s mayors for the House-passed, bipartisan aviation legislation, known as “AIR-21,” during the Aviation panel’s February 28 hearing.

The House hearing occurred as Members of a House/Senate Conference Committee were meeting to craft a final agreement on the level of future investment in airport infrastructure and other programs of the Federal Aviation Administration. Just as U.S. Mayor goes to print, an agreement on a multi-year bill was struck. (See box below.)

Campbell, who chairs the Conference of Mayors’ Transportation and Communications Committee, also emphasized that “this legislation (aviation) is important to all of us. And, we believe this is one of the most important issues before the Congress.” Savage, who also echoed these points, appeared before the panel as a member of the Conference’s Executive Committee.

Atlanta’s Hartsfield

Testifying as the mayor overseeing the world’s busiest airport, Campbell talked about his experience with the City of Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport, which last year served more than 78 million passengers. He said, “Today more than one of every ten passengers passes through Hartsfield.” He emphasized that the “performance of Hartsfield is critical to the entire Southeast.”

He described how “the vision of local leaders in our region” resulted in a commitment to investment in aviation infrastructure as a means for building a strong economic base for the region.  Campbell said,  “AIR-21 is a contemporary example of this same kind of vision.”

“We have calculated that Hartsfield has a $15 billion annual economic impact on the Atlanta region,” Campbell said.  The airport, he noted, has helped “our region grow by more than twice the national average.”

Campbell linked AIR-21 to the continued growth in the Atlanta region. “Our regional growth is dependent upon Hartsfield, and Hartsfield is dependent upon AIR-21.” He explained that “we have an awful lot at stake in this legislation” citing the airport’s 15-year, $8 billion expansion plan.

Mayors and AIR-21

Describing why the nation’s mayors support AIR-21, Campbell said that “this legislation would ensure that funds collected are expended on aviation needs, and provide certainty over time.” He also pointed out that AIR-21 would triple annual AIP ‘entitlement’ grants, increase the availability of AIP discretionary funds and allow airports to increase Passenger Facility Charges (PFC).

Campbell also said, “like the debate on TEA-21, we are strongly committed to the principle that aviation trust fund revenues be expended for the purposes for which these revenues were collected.”

In talking about provisions of AIR-21 allowing airports to increase Passenger Facility Charges (PFCs), Campbell said, “Mayors are also familiar with the continuing debate over PFCs. These are not taxes, these are fees from the users of these assets. Local governments could not function under the standard some are suggesting in the debate on these fees. How could cities operate the many user-based systems and other enterprise functions for water, stormwater, wastewater, electric and the like under this fairly difficult view of the world?”

Conference President Denver Mayor Wellington E. Webb has made enactment of AIR-21 one of the Conference’s top legislative priorities for the 106th Congress. Webb has also called for increased aviation investment as part of his “Agenda for America’s Cities” that was presented at the Conference’s 68th Winter Meeting.

Savage Cites Metro Economic Data

Savage explained the importance of aviation investment and metro economic growth, citing reports by Standard & Poor’s DRI on behalf of the Conference and the National Association of Counties that provide gross metropolitan product (GMP) numbers for the nation’s more than 300 urbanized areas.

“The findings are compelling. If city/county metro economies were ranked with nations, 47 of the world’s top 100 economies would be U.S. metro areas,” Savage said.

She pointed out that “the economy of the Dallas metro area, exclusive of the Fort Worth metro area, surpasses Thailand. The Atlanta metro area surpasses the economy of South Africa. And, the Tulsa area is now nearly the size of the economy of Vietnam or Kuwait.”

“These figures underscore the point that aviation investment is needed to sustain these economies,” Savage said.

Tulsa International Airport

Savage discussed the crucial role of aviation in driving Tulsa’s regional economy. “There are more than 13,000 people employed at our airport, including more than 8,000 with American Airlines and Boeing. The aviation industry, with more than 300 businesses in Tulsa, is a key reason why my community is ranked 8th nationally by Site Selection Magazine for new and expanding industries,” she said.

Urging attention to funding equity under AIR-21, Savage pointed out that Tulsa International “generates more than $40 million annually in airport fees and taxes for the federal government. Yet in 1999, we received only 11 cents back on every dollar we sent you.” She appealed to the Committee to emphasize equity in the distribution of funding, urging the Committee to “do for airports what you did in TEA-21.”

Savage also discussed provisions of AIR-21 that would help spur new competition through support for new carriers. She urged the Committee to expand AIR-21’s loan guarantee program to include support for new carriers. She also requested that the panel remove unused and underutilized slots at major airports, “assigning those slots to carriers providing non-stop service to unserved and under-served communities.”

Savage and Campbell throughout their statements underscored the mayors’ strong support for AIR-21. They also expressed their appreciation and that of the nation’s mayors for the leadership of Subcommittee Chair John Duncan (TN), full Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Bud Shuster (PA), Ranking Minority Member Jim Oberstar (MN) and other panel members on the legislation.

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