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"Kerry Pledges More Priority, Security For Airlines"
Tuesday, June 1, 2004
Kerry Pledges More Priority, Security For Airlines
By Denise Marois
Presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) contends the Bush
Administration has given inadequate priority to transportation --
especially airline security and airport congestion -- and supports a
long-term integrated transportation plan that takes in all modes.
If elected president, Kerry also pledged to move on addressing the
air-traffic controller shortage and airline financial woes, and to
continue the existing funding approach for congressionally imposed
security mandates of having Washington bear most of the burden with the
balance coming from passenger security fees.
On the campaign trail, Kerry has offered little insight into what sort
of aviation policies he might adopt, and The DAILY sought out staffers
on the campaign and others close to the senator to flesh out the
candidate's outlook on aviation. Those sources said aviation security
would be a top priority in a Kerry Administration, adding that the
candidate's broader economic policies would produce gains that will
filter down to the airlines, whose fortunes have historically been tied
Some lobbyists remain skeptical that a Kerry presidency will look much
different from a Bush Administration when it comes to airlines and
airports. Others predict that Kerry will be more pro-labor, which will
do little to redress imbalances in the labor-management relationship,
and speculated that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under
Kerry would take a more active approach to regulation. A Kerry
presidency could also mean more taxes on the airlines, they argue.
Kerry sources told The DAILY that he agrees the airlines are crucial to
the nation's economy and his administration would work with the industry
to promote "sound aviation policy" that will bring it back to
profitability. While Kerry supported loans for struggling airlines and
other initiatives post-Sept. 11, he believes the carriers must develop
viable long-term business plans. As president Kerry would enact "sound
fiscal policies that will help the economy get back on track, which will
in turn help the airlines," campaign sources said.
On air traffic control, aides said as president Kerry would "take steps
to ameliorate" the pending air-traffic controller shortage, noting that
without the controllers "runway construction is a moot point."
Kerry supports the current method for funding security with the
government assuming most of the congressionally imposed cost for baggage
and passenger screening, while the rest should continue to come from
passenger security fees that were added after Sept. 11. He also wants
the government to pay for its mandates on shoulder-fired missile
protection, but will wait until he has all the facts before deciding on
that issue, his sources said.
Lobbyists who represent the airlines believe that a Kerry presidency,
while good for labor, might not correct the management-labor relations
problems that continue plaguing the industry.
"I believe there is a fundamental imbalance in the management and labor
relationship" that Kerry will not correct, one Hill lobbyist said,
noting that it is a "root problem for the industry...It simply is a case
where labor has too much power and the wage spiral and silly work rules
are a symptom of it." A Kerry presidency backed by labor would make it
difficult for the senator to champion efforts to rebalance reforms, he
Kerry stands by the current collective bargaining process and would not
encourage congressional intervention.
Real differences between a Republican and Democratic administration
would likely show up most acutely in appointments to key agency posts.
While Kerry's people said he would not comment on who might fill posts
at DOT or OMB, agencies' priorities will shift under a Democrat and this
will be most visible at OMB, Hill lobbyists say.
Republican-led OMBs are much more aggressive in discouraging agency
rulemaking proposals that impose new regulation, said a lobbyist who has
regular dealings with the agency.
"They are more aggressive in leaning toward deregulation, which is
philosophically where you would expect to see from them," he said. He
cited CRS regulations as an example, noting that DOT would have
continued pursuing those rules but that OMB put a stop to it under the
Republican watch. It "put the DOT out of the business of re-regulating
CRS," he said.
A Democratic OMB would also lean more favorably toward environmental and
consumer rules, he added. "The Department itself may not vacillate or
change much but there would be change" in how the White House allowed
OMB to decide which initiatives they could influence.
One Republican lobbyist said that someone outside the Senate will have
to give Kerry an aviation vision, "and he will be one with it despite
having no nexus to his tenure in the Senate." This lobbyist likened
Kerry's understanding of aviation to Boston Logan Airport's passenger
security before and after Sept. 11 -- too little and then too much,
which resulted in neither effectiveness nor efficiency.
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