Reps. call on White House to reject user fees

October 20, 2009

More than 100 members of the U.S. House of Representatives on Oct. 20 urged President Barack Obama to reject user fees as a way to fund the FAA, and instead retain the efficient fuel excise and ticket taxes currently used to fund the Airport and Airway Trust Fund. In supporting documents sent to Congress with the Fiscal Year 2010 budget proposal, the White House indicated its intention to raise some $9 billion through “direct user charges” in the FY 2011 budget.

In the letter, 118 members—representing more than a quarter of the entire House of Representatives—told President Obama, “[T]he House has opposed this approach in legislation to reauthorize the FAA in both the 110th and 111th Congresses. Therefore, proposing user fees to finance the FAA would be a non-starter in the House.”

“The message from the House of Representatives to the White House in this truly bipartisan letter is unmistakable, and we appreciate the members’ staking out their position so unequivocally,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller. “They have heard not only general aviation’s concerns, but also the assurances of both the Government Accountability Office and the Department of Transportation’s Inspector General that the current funding mechanism is more than adequate to pay for both day-to-day operations and development of NextGen (the Next Generation Air Transportation System).”

In their letter, 55 Democrats and 63 Republicans call the current funding system, “a stable and efficient source of funding,” and say they believe a user fee-funded system “will place an undue administrative burden, and associated costs, on system users—particularly small businesses and general aviation users.

They go on to say that if the president includes a user fee proposal in the FY 2011 budget, it will be, “a major distraction from the number one priority, the Next Generation Air Transportation System.”

The most recent funding authorization bill for the FAA expired on Sept. 30, 2007. Since then, the agency has been paid for using a series of continuing resolutions—stopgap measures. In both the 110th and the current 111th Congress, the House passed reauthorization bills that raised fuel excise taxes for general aviation—a provision AOPA supported both times—while leaving taxes on the airlines and their passengers alone, and provided for the FAA without the use of user fees. U.S. Senate committees reached agreement on similar legislation, but were unable to bring a bill to the floor before the 110th Congress adjourned. Some involved in the Senate remain optimistic that the Senate will be able to reach agreement on its own reauthorization bill before the end of the year.

“I sincerely hope that President Obama and his administration carefully weigh the well informed and carefully considered views expressed by the members of the Congress signing this letter as next year’s budget proposals are developed,” concluded Fuller.