User fees in Obama's budget proposal

February 26, 2009

President Barack Obama’s proposed budget is calling for aviation user charges starting in 2011. The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released the proposal Feb. 26, and although there is not much detail, the document makes it clear that the administration wants to replace some of the aviation excise taxes with “direct user charges.”

“It is often said the devil is in the details, but even with only a few details, we are concerned,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller. “We have been working constructively with the Obama administration and Congress about moving forward with air traffic control modernization and airport development. However, the warning light went on with the budget briefing documents and the plan for imposing billions in user fees on the aviation community.”

The budget “proposes repealing some aviation excise taxes and replacing these taxes with direct user charges.” ( See page 129 of the budget proposal.)

“Direct user charges are just another name for user fees,” noted Fuller.

User charges would total some $7 billion in 2011, or about half of the FAA’s total budget.

“We don’t know what kind of user charges the Obama administration would propose to implement, but the previous administration wanted to raise about $7 billion through air traffic control system user fees,” Fuller said.

The Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), who has been a staunch opponent of user fees, released a statement saying, “I note that the budget appears to propose some type of aviation user fee. Aviation user fees have been proposed several times in the past by OMBs of various administrations, and have not been adopted by Congress.”

Earlier this month Fuller testified in support of Chairman Oberstar’s bill, H.R.915, to finance the FAA through the current system of aviation excise taxes.

“We have already contacted White House officials to express our concern and to reiterate the negative effects that user fees would have on the general aviation industry. We look forward to an open dialogue with the president on the best way to finance the modernization of our air traffic control system and the FAA’s continued operations.”