For immediate release
December 12, 2018
Virginia Lawmakers Propose Ending United Airlines Tax Break to Lower Tolls
Bill pre-filed today could save Dulles Toll Road commuters millions
DULLES – Today, Virginia lawmakers announced legislation to provide millions of dollars in toll relief to commuters on the Dulles Toll Road. The bill, sponsored by Delegate Elizabeth Guzman, would lower tolls by ending United Airlines’ jet fuel tax break and directing that revenue towards the Silver Line Project, currently funded largely by tolls.
“Virginia continues to face a transportation infrastructure funding crisis,” said Delegate Guzman. “But Virginia commuters should not be asked to accept higher tolls to fund transit projects that benefit United Airlines, while the airline receives millions in state tax breaks.”
The Silver Line will play an integral part in the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s plan to redirect more of the Washington consumer air traffic market through Dulles. Consequently, the $5.8 billion Silver Line Project will be a major boon to United Airlines, Dulles’ dominant carrier. Capturing just an additional 1% of the D.C. region’s passenger airline market would mean an estimated additional $66 million a year for United Airlines.
Meanwhile, tolls on the Dulles Toll Road are scheduled to increase $1.25 in January 2019 to finance Phase 2 of the Silver Line. During the public comment period this summer, over 95 percent of comments were either against the toll increase or in favor of finding alternative revenue sources. Tolls are expected to rise to over $11 by 2043 if alternative funding sources are not found. Ending United Airlines’ tax break on jet fuel would generate an estimated $4 million per year, enough to cancel almost 9% of the scheduled 2019 toll increase.
“Increasing tolls is another tax on working people in Northern Virginia,” said Doris Crouse-Mays, President of the Virginia AFL-CIO. “Commuters and every other business along the Dulles Corridor are already paying their fair share for the Silver Line. United Airlines should too.”
Virginia’s tax on jet fuel is five cents, far lower than the 16.2 cent gas tax paid by drivers. Large airlines like United, however, pay only 0.5 cents per gallon in taxes on over 99.8% of the fuel they consume in the Commonwealth. If Virginia closes this loophole to fund the portion of Silver Line Phase 2 on Dulles airport land, United’s fuel taxes will still be significantly lower than United’s other hubs in Chicago, Denver, San Francisco and Los Angeles. In September, the New Jersey Senate passed similar legislation to end United’s jet fuel tax break there to fund aviation-related transit projects.
Del. Guzman was joined by Delegates Paul Krizek, Marcus Simon, Kaye Kory, Lee Carter, and leaders from the AFL-CIO, UNITE HERE Local 23, and CASA. The bill is also co-sponsored by Delegates Alfonso Lopez, Mark Levine and Hala Ayala.