Members of Congress to president: No user fees

October 8, 2009

Aviation user fees still loom on the White House agenda for 2011, but leaders of the House aviation subcommittee are informing the president that the plan would be rejected in Congress.

Congressional Quarterly has reported that Reps. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.) and Thomas Petri (R-Wis.), the chairman and ranking member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s aviation subcommittee, are recruiting support for a letter urging the president not to propose user fees in his 2011 budget. The Obama administration budget for fiscal year 2010 calls for the air traffic control system to be paid for by “direct charges levied on users of the system” beginning in 2011.

“We want to make it clear that a user fee proposal will not be well received in the House,” Costello said in a press release. “Having another debate on user fees—which have been rejected repeatedly—will only take our attention away from NextGen [air transportation system modernization]. We must not allow this to happen.”

Both Costello and Petri support maintaining the current mechanism of using fuel taxes to support the Aviation Trust Fund. The House upheld this mechanism when it passed H.R.915, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2009, earlier this year. 

“Administrative costs and burdens make user fees an inefficient way of financing our aviation system,” Petri said in the press release.“The House’s position on this has been clear for several years.”

Reps. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.), Vernon J. Ehlers (R-Mich.), Bob Filner (D-Calif.), Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Lynn A. Westmoreland (R-Ga.), Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa),  Sam Graves (R-Mo.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.), John Boccieri (D-Ohio), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Mike McMahon (D-N.Y.), Mary Fallin (R-Okla.), Tim Holden (D-Pa.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), and Solomon Ortiz (D-Texas) have signed the letter, for which Costello and Petri are trying to garner support.

“User fees are not needed to raise revenue for the Trust Fund,” the letter reads. “The current system of aviation excise taxes has proven to be a stable and efficient source of funding for our aviation system. Furthermore, we believe that user fees will place an undue administrative burden, and associated costs, on system users—particularly small businesses and general aviation users.”

The letter points out that “allowing the FAA to independently raise revenue through a fee will result in inadequate incentives for the FAA to control its costs.” Aviation user fees have been proposed several times by past administrations, the letter notes, and the House rejected user fees for the last two years.

“Therefore, proposing user fees to finance the FAA would be a non-starter in the House and a major distraction from the number one priority, the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), to ensure our nation’s air traffic control infrastructure is robust for the future.”