THANKS TO SOME deft thinking by members of both parties in the House, a bill that would relieve the country's taxpayers of heavy financial responsibility for running and improving Dulles and National airports has been IL,7P,84 made even more appealing than it was when the Senate passed it. To allay any fears that regional management of these airports might somehow act against congressional or federal interests, a House subcommittee is considering establishment of a special panel that could veto decisions within a certain period. While this limitation isn't what you'd call a ringing endorsement of regional responsibility, it would not undercut the main purpose of the bill: to get Uncle Sam out of paying for, and running on a day-to-day basis, two airports that are going to require huge outlays right away.
Under consideration in the House is a panel that might be made up of, say, three members of the House, three members of the Senate and perhaps the head of the General Accounting Office. It could veto actions by the proposed regional authority, which itself includes federal representation. If, for example, this group were unhappy with the local authority's choice of an airport manager, or of a bond issue, it could say no. It would not set policy directly, though, leaving that to the authority.
The new group would not have to operate the airports or round up the money to fix them. That would be up to the regional authority, which could float bonds. The alternative is to stick the country's taxpayers with more bills to maintain two airports under federal control -- something not done for any other airport in the United States. This proposal represents a sound, frugal formula that the House could pass and return to the Senate with pride. But it should happen this year, because any more delay would simply dump two deteriorating airports in the federal lap indefinitely.