President Obama today announced his vision for high speed rail in America—a vision that includes efficiently moving people and goods between large population centers, and a vision that calls for an investment of $13 billion in federal general fund spending over the next five years.
I’d like to see the President embrace a similar vision for a proven transportation system—aviation. We already know that aircraft large and small move people and products nationwide, making enormous contributions to our economy and the public good. General aviation alone contributes more than 1 million jobs and $150 billion annually to the economy. We also know that investment in airports, aviation infrastructure, and modernization of the air traffic control system are desperately needed to maintain aviation’s exceptional safety record.
With that in mind, I am deeply troubled by the inconsistencies in how these two transportation networks are to be funded. It appears from the administration’s proposal that federal funding for high speed rail will come from the general fund, money derived from all taxpayers whether they use rail or not. At the same time, the administration’s budget proposes that aviation be paid for through billions in new user fees while the general fund contribution to the FAA would decrease substantially.
Aviation works for all Americans, even those who don’t fly. A safe, efficient, modern air transport system is fundamental to ensuring our economic prosperity. It simply doesn’t make sense to impose new financial burdens and reduce public funding for aviation on the one hand, and offer up billions in taxpayer money for high speed rail on the other. We need a vision for aviation, too—one that maintains the general fund contribution and lets us move forward with the modernization we so urgently need.