No cash register in the sky

November 15, 2006

No cash register in the sky

Jim Oberstar
Jim Oberstar

The chairman-apparent of the House Transportation Committee wasted little time in making his position on general aviation user fees clear.

"The idea of a cash register in the sky to cover the cost of aviation is not appealing to me, to general aviation, to regional aviation," said Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.) at a Tuesday press conference. With the shift in power following the midterm elections, Oberstar is expected to assume the chair of the committee responsible for FAA funding.

While the FAA and the airline industry are backing a plan that would take the FAA "off budget," charge fees to all system users, and create an air traffic control governing board dominated by the airlines, Oberstar called that a "bad idea."

"There are some functions government must undertake in the public interest," said Oberstar, noting that he had opposed a similar plan proposed by the Gore Commission in 1993. He said it was a bad idea then, and it's a bad idea now - the "airlines deciding how aviation operations, air traffic control and all the rest will be conducted."

Oberstar said eliminating the current passenger ticket taxes was another "dumb idea," and that he supports continuing the aviation fuel tax.

And he's not sitting around waiting for the reigns of power. He said he's already started working with committee Republicans; "We know what items have to be accomplished."

The FAA funding mechanism expires in September. Congress will have to reauthorize the current tax system or create a new funding mechanism for the agency. The White House, the FAA, and the Air Transport Association (the airlines' representative) are proposing a new user fee system. The GA industry contends that the current tax system is equitable, efficient, and sufficient to fund system modernization.

(See " User fees, a discussion presented at AOPA Expo" and " FAA administrator addresses user fees.")

November 15, 2006