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Government Shutdown

A TSA worker checks hands an identification card back to a traveler, Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

U.S. Rep. John Katko and the Democratic chairs of two House committees want to prevent Congress from shifting funds away from the Transportation Security Administration. 

Katko, R-Camillus, cosponsored legislation introduced by U.S. Reps. Peter DeFazio and Bennie Thompson that would prohibit the federal government from diverting passenger security fee revenue. 

A companion bill has been introduced by U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat. 

Passenger security fees are collected by alrlines and paid for by passengers who purchase tickets. The fee is $5.60 for a one-way trip that originates in the U.S. 

Beginning in 2013, one-third of the revenue from the security fees was used for other purposes. In the 2019 fiscal year, $1.36 billion in revenue won't be used for aviation security. Supporters of the bill projected that more than $19 billion would be diverted from the TSA by the 2027 fiscal year. 

Katko, who is the former chair of the House subcommittee that oversees TSA, reiterated his concerns about the need to bolster the TSA and aviation security. 

"The FASTER Act achieves this goal by redirecting revenues accumulated by security fees and allows TSA to invest in a more robust airport security infrastructure," he said. "Ensuring the TSA is fully staffed and has access to quality resources is essential to our national security, and I am proud to be a co-sponsor of this legislation that improves TSA preparedness." 

The legislation would also provide help to the TSA during government shutdowns. The measure would allow the agency to access security fee revenue to pay transportation security officers if there is a shutdown.

During the recent 35-day shutdown, officers worked without pay. 

Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, highlighted the impact of the shutdown on TSA and emphasized the need for investments in aviation security.

"It defies common sense that a big chunk of air passenger security fees are not going towards aviation security and the functions of the (TSA)," he said. 

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Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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