November 3, 2011
By Dan Namowitz
U.S. Senate GA Caucus member Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and 22 co-signers took the case against general aviation user-fees to the White House this week, as a congressional deficit-cutting “super committee,” facing two key deadlines, pursued its $1.5 trillion task.
The senators reminded the president that during the past five years the House and Senate have considered new aviation user fees and rejected them overwhelmingly. With 14 million Americans looking for work and GA efficiently providing communities with critical services, increasing taxes on general aviation will only further stifle economic recovery, the senators said in a letter to President Barack Obama.
“We cannot impress upon you enough how important the general aviation industry is to American vitality. The industry employs 1.2 million workers and generates $150 billion in economic activity,” they wrote. “In many of our states, general aviation generates economic development in U.S. communities with little or no commercial airline service.”
The existing method of fuel taxes levied on general aviation efficiently helps fund the FAA and is far preferable to the collection of user fees through a new federal collection bureaucracy, they said. “This would require funding to support such a collection agency, which seems counterproductive to deficit reduction. The hiring of billing agents, auditors, and collection officials will be required to facilitate this proposal. In contrast, the current fuel tax allows the government to be prepaid for its services, and the operators are not saddled with new and onerous administrative burdens.”
The senators’ letter also pointed out that with more than half of GA aircraft produced in 2010 headed for the export market, the industry has performed in conjunction with administration goals “of doubling U.S. exports over the next five years.”
"Senator Moran and his colleagues who have signed this letter clearly recognize the value general aviation delivers to the national economy and every U.S. resident. All of us in the general aviation community are grateful for their leadership," said AOPA President Craig Fuller. “There is no doubt that user fees would have a crippling effect on general aviation—we've seen it happen time and again in other countries. We cannot afford to further damage this vital industry even as it struggles to recover from the economic slowdown. From the dawn of powered flight, general aviation has supported the national aviation system through taxes on fuel, and pay-at-the-pump is still the most efficient and effective way for us to contribute."
With costs outweighing any benefits from user fees, the senators told Obama, they would oppose any inclusion of the fees in any plan put forward by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, acting under the Budget Control Act of 2011 mandate to prepare a proposal by Nov. 23 for cutting $1.5 trillion from the deficit over the next 10 years.
Congress must then vote up or down on the committee’s proposal before Dec. 23.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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