Here we go again. The airlines, no surprise, oppose a tiny raid on
the goverment's airport and airways trust fund. They even oppose
using interest payments from the multibillion-dollar account to
fund the U.S National Tourism Organization.
Of course, there is no aviation trust fund bulging with money,
any more than there is a highways or a Social Security trust fund
accumulating dollars. The fund is an accounting ruse. The money
collected goes into the general budget to mask the federal
But, no matter. The proposal floated by Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.)
would set aside that portion of the revenue collected for airports
and put the amount into an interest-bearing account to finance the
As for the airlines: No way do they want Congress to set a
precedent and violate the fund, which was designed to maintain and
improve the aviation infrastructure. Nor does Sen. John McCain
(R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee.
One can't blame the airlines, although, as USNTO chairman Roger
Ballou observed, the idea would have the appeal of funding the
public/private-sector partnership without an annual appropriation.
Automatic funding must be everyone's dream.
Presumably the airlines would benefit from overseas promotion.
But if Congress thinks that all tourism promotion to the U.S. is a
favor to the airlines, which spend millions promoting the country
now, they ought to stop deluding themselves.
We still think that promoting the U.S., even skimpily, is a good
thing for the country, generating revenues that make their way to
jobs and businesses and lowering taxes. Probably the only way to
demonstrate the impact to Congress is to issue foreign visitors
tourist dollars that could be redeemed at a local bank.
The USNTO, which always has faced tough sledding in the funding
game, is in its last year. It's too bad. It should be funded on its
own merits. An expenditure would attest to the country's interest
in attracting and serving foreign visitors.