This bipartisan legislation introduced by Representatives Joe Heck (R-NV) and Mike Quigley (D-IL) would leverage the benefits of inbound international travel to the United States with the purpose of increasing economic growth, creating more jobs, generating additional tax revenue, and boost U.S. exports.
The JOLT Act would modernize the Visa Waiver Program by updating the eligibility requirements to allow more travelers from countries that are closely allied with the United States like Poland, Israel, Brazil and Chile. It would also facilitate the use of videoconferencing to conduct visa interviews, making the process much more efficient and quick while reducing costs for U.S. taxpayers.
The JOLT Act would reduce wait times by instituting fee-based expedited interviews at a limited number of consular posts and require the State Department to publish information on times of low demand to encourage visitors to apply.
The JOLT Act would also expand the highly successful Global Entry Program which allows for pre-approved, low-risk international travelers to use an expedited clearance process to gain entry to the United States.
International travel is a core goal of Choose Chicago as we work to meet Mayor Emanuel's challenge to elevate Chicago to among the top 5 U.S. cities for inbound international traffic by 2020. Passage of the JOLT Act is critical to help us meet this goal.
The nation's transportation infrastructure is outdated, inconsistent and inefficient and will not be able to support the projected increase in domestic and international travel. Necessary upgrades to systems need to be implemented to deal with the oncoming demand.
The United States air traffic control is using outdated World War II era technology that causes systemic delays and cancellations. An alternative to the current technology is the Next Generation Airport Transportation System (NextGen). NextGen could increase system capacity by one-third and would include other efficiency, cost-savings and environmental benefits. Implementation of NextGen continues to get delayed and has uncertainties in funding.
Eighty percent of all long haul trips in the United States are taken by motor vehicles and similar to our airport infrastructure the nation's roads are in dire straits and won't be able to handle the load of increased travel which makes it a major priority. One-third of America's major roads are in poor or mediocre condition and 45 percent of major urban highways are congested. A national independent study found that the United States needs to spend an additional $134 billion to $262 billion per year through 2035 to rebuild and improve roads, rail systems and air transportation.
When conducted responsibly, government conferences, meetings and travel deliver important services to businesses and individual taxpayers which include safety inspections, disaster relief assistance, corporate training on taxes and government regulations among many other services.
Government meetings, conferences and events also support economic growth and job creation. In 2011, government travel alone supported more than 290,000 American jobs. Cutting government travel undercuts American economic recovery, growth and job creation.