At least one provision in the recently enacted budget package is to be welcomed. The legislation included a measure permitting airports to levy a head tax on departing passengers and use the money for a broad range of improvements.

The advantages of the tax, whose chief sponsor was Missouri Sen. John Danforth, are many. First, the levy is optional; local authorities will decide for themselves whether to impose it. It is more flexibile; revenues can be used for a broader range of improvements than what Federal Aviation Administration grants now permit. Finally, the tax will provide funds desperately needed to improve our airway system.Critics say the federal government should spend the unallocated balance in the aviation trust fund before new taxes are levied. They have a point, but these objections are balanced by the optional nature of the new tax and the need to deal now with the problems of congestion.

The airway system should be viewed nationally, not locally. Congestion at a few key choke points leads to congestion elsewhere. The new levy will provide needed resources to help improve the system's overall efficiency.