Pawsing the Fat Cat Act


Let’s hope Edward Markey does not get seasick.

The Massachusetts Democrat Senator last week announced a bill with New York Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez that aims to tax business aircraft fuel. His Fuelling Alternative Transportation with a Carbon Aviation Tax (FATCAT) Act (can you see what he did there) wants to raise fuel taxes for private jet travel from $0.22 to $1.95 per gallon.

“The 1 percent can’t free ride on our environment and our infrastructure at a discount,” said Senator Markey in a statement. “Billionaires and the ultra-wealthy are getting a bargain, paying less in taxes each year to fly private and contribute more pollution than millions of drivers combined on the roads below. It’s time to ground these fat cats and make them pay their fair share so that we can invest in building public transportation that communities across the country and our economy desperately need.”

They want to use cash from the tax to support air monitoring for what they call environmental justice communities and long-term investments in clean, affordable public transportation across the country. This would include rail and bus routes near commercial airports.

The National Business Aviation Association is not impressed. “Business aviation pays for its use of the aviation system through a fuel tax, which has many benefits, including that the tax you pay at the pump goes directly toward aviation system upkeep and upgrades, not to non-aviation related expenditures,” said the association in a statement.

“If Congress wants to debate the amount of the fuel tax, that is its prerogative, but we oppose efforts to unfairly single out one mode of transportation for punitive tax treatment, especially for expenditures unrelated to investments in preserving our nation’s world-leading position in aviation.”

Washington insiders say that it is unlikely that Markey’s Bill will ever become law. But the business aviation industry should take it as a warning sign. (Pictured in the United States Capitol).

Lobbyists, protestors and lawmakers are increasingly linking environmentalism with inequality. Earlier this month three protestors from Spain’s Futuro Vegetal (Vegetable Future) and Extinction Rebellion (surely there is an opportunity for an investment bank to do some M&A here) spray painted a business jet at Ibiza Airport. Their colleagues then targeted a superyacht at the marina, a Lamborghini and a couple of night clubs.

Demonstrators painting aircraft and blocking airports are more than a nuisance. They are encouraging politicians and donors to go after business aviation. We have already seen the interim CEO of Amsterdam’s Schiphol threaten a ban on business jets and France attempting to ban short-haul flights. A few members of the California State Legislature this year tried introducing rules that would block flights for aircraft that were carrying less than half their maximum capacity.

Many business aviation companies are gearing up for the 2024 elections where jets are essential for most candidates. We look forward to Senator Markey campaigning across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts – including its many islands like Nantucket – by train, bus, bike and canoe at the next election. If he steps into any business aircraft – helicopter, piston, turboprop or jet – he will be a hypocrite. And no politician would ever want to be called that.

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