Every year millions of travelers pass through airport security checkpoints, and every year hundreds of thousands of dollars total are left behind in the form of loose change. Ever wonder where it goes? From your pocket directly to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). It was reported that TSA collected over $400,000 in loose change in fiscal year 2010. While the TSA plays a vital role in securing our nation's modes of transportation, it should not be in the business of profiting from the very same travelers it is charged with protecting.
Rather than allowing the TSA to continue to keep money from your change purse to pay for their bloated bureaucracy, I introduced legislation that puts the money to good use. My bill would direct traveler's lost change to the United Service Organizations (USO) for use at its airport centers, which support our nation's warriors and provide a welcoming atmosphere where servicemembers can reconnect with family. Last year, USO airport centers were visited more than 8 million times.
Last month, this legislation achieved an important milestone when it successfully passed out of the House Committee of Homeland Security with unanimous and bipartisan support. It now awaits action on the House Floor. Before a bill can pass out of the House, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is required to provide a cost estimate of the bill. One would think that providing a cost estimate for this bill would be straightforward. After all, the lost change this bill directs to the USO is non-appropriated funding and does not come from the Treasury. Given that this money is not funding set aside by the Congress for TSA's use, the cost of this bill should be close to none. But, according to the CBO report released last week, this bill will supposedly cost $1 million, approximately TSA's existing balance of unclaimed change. Why? The TSA has already figured this money into their annual budget and feels entitled to it. This kind of entitled attitude highlights the out-of-control nature of our federal bureaucracy.
The TSA receives billions of taxpayer dollars each year, and should not rely "on the kindness" of travelers to line its coffers. That money can, and should be, put toward an honorable goal -- that of supporting America's military men and women. Yet, according to federal budgeting assumptions, the TSA is simply entitled to this lost change. Only in the federal government can change you are forced to remove from your pockets and then accidently leave behind be counted as guaranteed income to the TSA. This is the problem with our government today.
I look forward to the swift passage of this legislation and hope all of you will take the time to greet our servicemembers at USO airport centers located around the country on your next trip.