September 19, 2011
By Dan Namowitz
The nation’s leading general aviation associations registered joint opposition to job-killing aviation user fees—and a potential new tax-collection bureaucracy—in President Barack Obama's plan for stemming the twin crises of the federal deficit and stubborn unemployment.
AOPA, the Aircraft Electronics Association, Experimental Aircraft Association, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Helicopter Association International, International Council of Air Shows, National Association of State Aviation Officials, National Air Transportation Association, and the National Business Aviation Association issued a joint statement warning of “devastating” consequences for aviation-industry jobs from a proposed $100 fee for users of air traffic services.
“We believe this per-flight tax not only imposes a significant new administrative burden on general aviation operators who currently pay through an efficient per-gallon fuel charge at the pump, but it will also necessitate the creation of a costly new federal collection bureaucracy,” the associations said.
“As you know, the issue of how general aviation can best contribute revenue to the federal government has been the subject of significant study and debate as part of the FAA reauthorization process. After careful consideration, both chambers of Congress have passed bills that endorse the per-gallon fuel charges rather than adopt a per-flight tax similar to the one you propose. In fact, Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives felt so strongly about this issue that 116 members of that body sent you a letter earlier this year saying new aviation charges like the one you are now proposing would be ‘dead on arrival.’”
According to draft wording of the user fee plan, the Obama administration “proposes to establish a new mandatory surcharge for air traffic services. This proposal would create a $100 per flight fee, payable to the FAA, by aviation operators who fly in controlled airspace. Military aircraft, public aircraft, recreational piston aircraft, air ambulances, aircraft operating outside of controlled airspace, and Canada-to-Canada flights would be exempted. The revenues generated by the surcharge would be deposited into the Airport and Airway Trust Fund. This fee would generate an estimated $11 billion over 10 years. Assuming the enactment of the fee, total charges collected from aviation users would finance roughly three fourths of airport investments and air traffic control system costs.”
As the debt crisis and unemployment have worsened, aviation groups have been watchful for signs of a bid to impose new taxes on aviation. On July 21, AOPA President Craig Fuller alerted members in this AOPA Live video that user fees, which had failed to be included in the recent budget proposals in the face of strong opposition in Congress, showed signs of resurfacing despite the efficient workings of the aviation fuel tax as a source of FAA funding.
User fees are back on the table. Help AOPA defend general aviation by supporting the AOPA Political Action Committee today: Go online to contribute.
AOPA and 26 other organizations representing virtually the entire aviation community urged House and Senate leaders to resist any taxes—including those “disguised as user fees”—in the Obama administration’s plan to reduce the deficit and stimulate employment. Policymakers should value aviation as a potential engine for economic growth, and not single out the sector as a “national piggybank,” they said.
New fees or taxes would stifle the aviation sector’s contributions to the economy and undermine an “already fragile” economic recovery, the aviation groups wrote in letters sent to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
AOPA reported Sept. 19 that the administration has proposed a $100 fee for most flights in controlled airspace as part of its proposal to reduce the deficit. That proposal would not only raise costs for the aviation sector, but would mark a departure from the time-tested method of funding the FAA through a tax on aviation fuel.
“Our policymakers should be focused on increasing U.S. international competitiveness rather than viewing the industry as a national piggybank,” said the Sept. 21 letters to the House and Senate leaders.
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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