Hawaii Dem grumbles about air travel tax in budget deal

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) warned on Wednesday that higher taxes on air travel included in the budget agreement would unfairly hurt her constituents more than others and called on members to carefully assess the proposal.

"The budget deal is a solid step in the right direction, but we must ensure that the people of Hawaii who have no options available to them other than to fly are not unduly burdened with a fee increase," she said on the House floor. "I look forward to being able to address this issue."

Gabbard was reacting to Tuesday's announcement of a budget deal between House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

Under the budget deal, the tax on airline tickets that people pay to help fund airport security would rise by $3.10 to $5.60 for each takeoff and landing. That fee increase would start Oct. 1, 2014.

Today, the fee is $2.50 for each leg of air travel. Gabbard said the increase would crush people in Hawaii who are forced to fly just to get from island to island.

"My state of Hawaii has a very unique circumstance," she said. "We have six major islands where people live, with no inter-island railway, no highway or ferry system that connects each of these islands.

"And people who commute back and forth … have no other option but to fly."

At the same time, Gabbard praised the effort of Ryan and Murray to reach a budget deal. She said while it's not perfect, it is "something that symbolizes what can be achieved when two sides come together in the best interest for our country."

The House was expected to approve the deal as early as Thursday, while the Senate was to consider it next week. More broadly, the deal pulls back on $63 billion in sequester cuts and replaces them with attempts to cut back on wasteful spending and increases in several fees, including customs fees.

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