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Travelers leave $500G in change at airport security checkpoints

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FILE: Nov. 15, 2010: TSA Transportation Security Officers, in blue uniforms, monitor airline passenger as they check-in at Washington's Ronald Reagan National Airport. Disabled travelers have filed complaints with the TSA over excessive screenings. (AP)

In the rush to catch their flights, airline passengers left more than $500,000 behind at security checkpoints in each of the past two fiscal years, according to data released by the Transportation Security Administration. 

Under current law, the TSA is allowed to keep unclaimed checkpoint money and spend it on aviation security projects, but one congressional lawmaker is pushing a proposal that would redirect the loose change to members of the military.

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., has introduced legislation that would require the TSA to transfer unclaimed money recovered from airport security checkpoints to nonprofit organizations that operate airport programs in support of the military. 

"The TSA has been keeping the pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters from your change purse to pay for their bloated bureaucracy," Miller said in a statement. "If TSA representatives get to play "finders keepers" with your hard-earned cash, what’s the incentive to try to get the loose change to its rightful owners?" 

In 2012, more than $531,000 was collected at security checkpoints, up $44,000 from 2011, according to data released by Miller's office. In 2010, passengers left behind $433,000 at TSA checkpoints. 

Miller's bill, which recently cleared the Homeland Security Committee, was recently evaluated by the Congressional Budget Office, which said the agency is expected to spend unclaimed  money gradually over the next several years. 

According to a Bloomberg Businessweek report, earlier CBO estimates of the bill said the proposal would cost $1 million to implement. “I was pretty aggravated that they said it was going to cost money to give money away,” Miller told the magazine.

Below is a rundown compiled by Businessweek of the money travelers left at some airports last year: 

Miami: $39,613
Las Vegas: $26,900
Chicago O’Hare: $22,115
Los Angeles International: $21,916
New York-JFK: $21,201
Dallas-Fort Worth: $21,090
San Francisco: $19,873
Boston: $16,405
Houston-Intercontinental: $16,000
Washington-Dulles: $16,000
Phoenix-Sky Harbor: $10,492
Atlantic City: $350.56
Guam: $1.70