IN CASE YOU hadn't noticed, there was a tax cut on Oct. 1. It wasn't very big, it didn't affect everybody and it is probably only temporary. But it was significant for people who travel by air and those who buy fuel for airplanes.
This tax cut came about because the Senate and House were unable to agree on the future of the Airport and Airway Trust Fund. As a result, the laws that support this program for the modernizing and expansion of airports and the airway system expired when September did. The tax on airline tickets dropped from 8 percent to 5 percent, and the revenue switched from the trust fund account to the general Treasury account. The 7 cents a gallon tax on general aviation fuel droped to 4 cents, and that money is now going into the highway trust fund instead of into the aviation fund. Some other airways taxes, like the $3 head tax on departing international travelers, just disappeared.
Presumably, these taxes will reappear, the others will be adjusted and money will start flowing again in the aviation trust fund sometime after Congress returns in mid-November. In the meantime, some runway construction may be delayed and there will be no new funds for badly needed navigational aids.
This is not what you would describe as a good way to run an important government program. But it is a good example of the malaise that has settled over Capitol Hill. Congressional indecision and inaction have begun to produce results -- like the partial shutdown of the government on Oct. 1 -- that almost no one intended or wanted. Enough of these legislative problems were left hanging when Congress recessed to keep its members busy next month -- even if not one single new proposal is introduced during that unfortunate lame-duck session.