Ellison’s Must Read of the Day

Ellison Barber

My must read of the day is "Your guide to the budget deal compromise," in NBC News:

Budget fights in Washington are rarely simple or without rancor. Some conservative groups have already begun attacking the compromise deal announced Tuesday, lobbing complaints Republican House Speaker John Boehner dismissed as  "ridiculous."

Despite this infighting, prospects appear favorable for its passage in both chambers as of now.

As with all compromises, this one doesn’t completely satisfy either side, but most leaders in Congress are touting elements that appeal to their respective parties. […]

Would the deal raise taxes? No, but it would increase fees for people who travel on airlines. Specifically it would increase aviation security fees by about $13 billion over ten years.

For a person traveling on a commercial flight, it would mean a minimum 60 cent-per-ticket increase in aviation fees, according to Erik Hansen, director of domestic policy at the U.S. Travel Association.

This aviation security fee is separate from the 7.5 percent federal excise tax on airline tickets, which remains unchanged under the terms of the Ryan-Murray agreement.

I will concede that in many cases, user fees are de facto taxes. My issue is with the manner in which some lawmakers, such as Rep. Justin Amash (R., Mich.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky,), are using the word "tax." Using the word as they do implies that part of this deal is a massive, unavoidable, uniform charge imposed on the incomes of the vast majority.

Not so.

The Ryan-Murray proposal would raise the TSA security fee to $5.60 for any one-way flight.

This is not a new fee. It was known as the 9/11 Security fee and previously cost $2.50 per enplanement on any one-way flight. If you had a layover the fee was $5.00 each way. Now it’s a flat fee of $5.60 per flight, each way.

This is a user fee – it is specifically associated with the use of service, and the government provides that service. It’s not something to be happy about, but just referring to it as a "tax" is a mischaracterization to make people think there will be an increase in income taxes in the coming year. It’s a misleading scare tactic.