Confirmed: FAA budget, user fees for 2011

May 7, 2009

As federal agencies roll out more details of the president’s budget for next year, the threat of aviation user fees is becoming more defined.

In an FAA budget brief released by the Department of Transportation May 7, the Obama Administration calls for the air traffic control system to be paid for by user fees: “Starting in 2011, the budget assumes that the air traffic control system will be funded with direct charges levied on users of the system.”

The DOT summary goes further than information released by the White House earlier in the day that left open the possibility of user fees for 2011, recommending a repeal of the longstanding prohibition of the fees.

FAA Reauthorization: The Vision 100—Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act, as extended by Congress, expires on September 30, 2009. Starting in 2011, the Budget assumes that the air traffic control system will be funded with direct charges levied on users of the system. The FAA’s current excise tax system is largely based on taxes that depend on the price of customers’ airline tickets, not FAA’s cost for moving flights through the system. The Administration believes that the FAA should move toward a model whereby FAA’s funding is related to its costs, the financing burden is distributed more equitably, and funds are used to pay directly for services the users need. The Administration recognizes that there are alternative ways to achieve these objectives. Accordingly, the Administration will work with stakeholders and the Congress to enact legislation that moves toward such a system.

Changing the time-tested system of aviation taxes to a new user fee system—$7 billion in fees—would shift more of the burden onto general aviation and could potentially cripple the industry.