Chauffeurs, Cabbies Sue Florida Airport Over Access Fee

Posted on May 11, 2011 by LCT Staff - Also by this author - About the author

The $75 fee at Palm Beach International Airport is unconstitutional because it is a tax on a singled-out group masquerading as a fee, plaintiffs say.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — While it might cost them only $75 every two years, local cabbies and limousine drivers say they shouldn't have to pay a special fee just to pick up and drop off fares at Palm Beach International Airport.

In a lawsuit filed last week in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, they claim the fee is unconstitutional because it is really a tax. And, they claim, a small group of people can't be forced to pay a special tax for services that benefit all county residents. Further, because they already pay a $75 fee to operate their vehicles in the county, the airport charge constitutes double taxation.

"It's not about the money," said John Critchett, owner of Palm Beach Tours and Transportation. He and the FLORIDA LIMOUSINE ASSOCIATION are challenging the fee that went into effect Jan. 1. "The issue is greater than that."

The first he learned of the fee was when he received an invoice in the mail. There was no opportunity for debate. He said he isn't going to lose his constitutional rights just so the airport can make an easy $50,000 annually.

Chief Assistant County Attorney Jim Mize said the charge isn't a tax. "It's a user fee," he said.

It will be used to maintain roads and signs and make other improvements, airport spokeswoman Casandra Davis said. So far, the owners of more than 1,000 vehicles have paid the fee.

Critchett also is challenging the fee because Yellow Cab, operated by the Palm Beach County Transportation Group, doesn't have to pay it. Davis said it is included in the $200,000 the company pays annually for the exclusive right to provide service at the airport.

Source: The Palm Beach Post, West Palm Beach, Fla.

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