No traction for user fees in Senate

October 6, 2011

The Obama administration’s proposal for a $100 user fee on most general aviation flights has proven a tough sell in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) offered alternatives for funding hiring incentives and economic development, and Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) took the floor to call to defend business aviation against “demonizing,” and to remind colleagues of the importance of GA to his state’s communities. ( Watch video of Begich’s remarks.)

Reid, on Oct. 6, put forth a tax-relief and jobs bill that contains the same incentives for creating jobs as President Barack Obama’s original proposal. But it replaces funding mechanisms with a basic surtax of 5.6 percent on income in excess of $1 million, starting in 2013. The completely-paid-for measure was seen reducing the deficit by about $6 billion.

Begich, in floor remarks, criticized the administration for “demonizing” legitimate business travel in its efforts to “change the way businesses can treat the depreciation of general aviation aircraft.” Doing so, he said, would create “a disincentive to buy American-made aircraft, and further depress an industry that has felt the impacts of the recession.”

GA keeps isolated Alaska communities connected and “is not a luxury,” he said, noting that Alaska has six times more pilots and 16 times more aircraft per capita than the rest of the nation.

The $100 user fee proposal is “not a wise or cost effective way to administer a tax,” he said.

“General Aviation users pay their fair share for our aviation system through the per-gallon tax on fuel and avgas at the pump,” he said. Begich added that when the GA industry agreed to a modest increase in the fuel tax as part of an FAA reauthorization bill that passed the Senate earlier in the year, it showed a commitment by GA to paying its fair share for aviation infrastructure and program support.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz | Aviation Writer

Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.