Republican Senator Chuck Grassley says a proposed fee increase for airline passengers is a tough sell for Republicans in congress. The proposal is rumored to be part of a deal that Grassley and other budget negotiators are trying to draft before a deadline this Friday.
“It’s always been talked about as being part of the package,” Grassley says. “But here you get into something that Republicans are very cautious about and that’s raising revenue that’s going to be spent immediately.”
Airlines passengers have been paying a $2.50 “September 11th security fee” on each flight they take and the proposal would double the fee to $5 per flight. After October’s budget showdown that led to a partial federal government shutdown, negotiators were hoping to meet the December 13 deadline for a new budget deal and Grassley is optimistic that deadline will be met.
“I would think that would keep government from being shut down on January the 15th,” Grassley says.
However, the compromise falls short of making major changes in entitlements like Social Security like Republicans want or close tax loopholes like Democrats want.
“So you’re kind of up against this issue: can you raise revenue enough to satisfy the appetite of congress to spend money? And I don’t think do,” Grassley says. “We don’t have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem.”
Critics say the proposal Grassley and other budget negotiations are drafting is a spend-now-cut-later approach, but Grassley contends it corrects the deep cuts in defense spending that were required in the so-called “sequestration” budget deal that stretches until 2022.
“The idea would be to spend a little bit more in ’14 and ’15 and not have the increases for ’16 through ’22 be quite as big as they were, but still come out at the end of the 2022 period of time with the same amount of savings at $1.2 trillion,” Grassley says.
Grassley is part of a 29-member committee of House and Senate members who’ve been trying to hammer out a budget deal since mid-October. Grassley’s also a member of the Senate Finance Committee. The president’s nominee to serve as the new commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service is appearing before the committee today and Grassley will press him to improve the agency’s whistleblower protection program.
“Whistleblowers have valuable information on tax cheating that could lead to the collection of taxes due and owed,” Grassley says. “The IRS has been too slow to embrace this beefed up whistleblower function which I legislated.”
Grassley also wants the IRS to hire private debt collection agencies to go after Americans who haven’t paid their taxes.