Bill to suspend jet fuel tax during state of emergency

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SPEAKER Blas Jonathan Attao on Monday prefiled a bill to suspend the aviation fuel tax during a state of significant emergency.

Speaker Blas Jonathan Attao, right, and House Minority Leader Edwin Propst chat during a break from an informal House meeting on Jan. 29 in the House chamber.  Photo by Emmanuel T. Erediano

In an interview, the speaker said his House Bill 21-102 aims to address the drastic drop in tourist arrivals due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The bill would remove the aviation fuel tax from the price of aviation fuel sold to international air carriers.

H.B. 21-102 provides that the seller of aviation fuel “may apply to the Secretary of Finance for a tax credit for the amount of the Aviation Fuel Tax excluded from the price of aviation fuel sold to international carriers during the period of the Declaration of Significant Emergency and the 60 days thereafter.”

The bill states that while it is prudent to protect the health and welfare of the people living and visiting the CNMI, “we find that the request to suspend the arrivals of travelers from mainland China will have an adverse financial effect on the airlines, and in turn, negatively affect the economy of the CNMI.”

Accordingly, it stated, “Just as the governor took steps to address urgent medical issues, this legislation endeavors to mitigate the economic ramifications to our travel industry partners and the CNMI.”

Attao said a fuel tax suspension should serve as an incentive for air carriers to continue serving the Commonwealth during the emergency period.

“It is our hope that by reducing the costs to our airline partners, we will facilitate and maintain the status quo and potentially encourage them to increase their service to the CNMI and pass the realized savings to our tourists who ultimately drive the travel demand,” he added.

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