Memorandum of Disapproval of the Bill Amending the Independent Safety Board Act
I am withholding my approval of H.R. 4961, the ``Independent Safety Board Act Amendments of 1986,'' for reasons unrelated to improving transportation safety -- a cause to which I remain firmly committed. My Administration is actively implementing new aviation technology, both on the ground and on-board aircraft. Furthermore, over the last five years, my Administration has increased funding for the Federal Aviation Administration by 50 percent. Our multi-billion dollar safety modernization program for the Nation's air traffic system -- already the safest in the world -- has contributed to a decline in the accident rate by over 50 percent during the last decade. We have been equally dedicated to improving highway safety. In the past decade, the highway fatality rate has declined by about 25 percent. Still, my 1987 budget request for motor carrier safety exceeded 1982 funding five-fold.
I remain steadfast in my commitment to transportation safety, but H.R. 4961 would authorize excessive appropriations for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) for fiscal years 1987, 1988, and 1989 and would lead the Federal government to become involved in an industry-by-industry approach to the larger problem of liability insurance.
I find several provisions of this legislation objectionable. First, the bill would authorize appropriations for NTSB in 1988 and 1989 that would be $8.7 million, or 20 percent, more than the projections in my 1987 budget. Specifically, these authorization levels exceed the projections by the following amounts: (1) $3.7 million in 1988 -- $25.4 million versus $21.7 million projected and (2) $5 million in 1989 -- $27 million versus $22 million projected. Given our current efforts to reduce the size of the Federal deficit, the size of these increases is unacceptable. I point out that the NTSB's budget has already grown 26 percent in the past five years and that my budgets provide sufficient funding for the NTSB to maintain its safety functions. Moreover, since funds have already been appropriated for the NTSB in 1987, NTSB activities will continue uninterrupted even with my disapproval of this bill.
Second, H.R. 4961 directs the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration to establish an airport liability insurance clearinghouse and, with the Secretary of Transportation, to prepare reports on the increasing costs of general liability insurance coverage for airports and the implications of those increasing costs for airports. A final report would include recommendations for actions that the Federal government might undertake to assist in ameliorating the liability insurance difficulties of airports used by the public.
Many Americans are caught by the spiraling costs of liability insurance. While I am not unsympathetic to those who are bearing the cost of rising insurance premiums, I believe it would be inequitable and unwise for the Federal government to address this issue on an industry-by-industry basis.
For these reasons, I am compelled to withhold my approval from the bill. In so doing, I reemphasize that the disapproval will not disrupt the NTSB's activities in 1987 and that my Administration remains firmly committed to ensuring safe transportation.
The White House,
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