April 27, 2012
By Dan Namowitz
The Obama administration defended its fiscal 2013 budget proposal for a surcharge of $100 per flight, insisting to general aviation supporters in Congress that user fees would generate $10 billion over 10 years and spread costs “more equitably.”
The administration put forth its user fee rationale in a letter from Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Jeffrey D. Zients to GA Caucus Co-Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.). The April 10 letter came as a response to a letter signed by 195 Members of Congress who wrote to the president in March to oppose user fees—when they reminded the administration that Congress “has repeatedly and overwhelming rejected them.”
“In a challenging budget environment, we believe it’s essential that those who benefit from our world-class aviation system help pay for its ongoing operation, and we want to ensure that everyone is paying their fair share,” Zients wrote in his April 10 letter to Graves.
User fee critics counter that aviation contributes $1.2 trillion to the economy annually and provides 11 million jobs which should not be put at risk by saddling the industry with $1 billion a year in new costs.
Also, the aviation trust fund is already losing $50 million a year diverted to highway fund accounts because of onerous anti-tax-fraud measures, as AOPA reported April 26.
The administration proposal would exempt piston, military, public, and air ambulance aircraft. However, AOPA and other organizations have consistently opposed user fees, pointing out that dismantling the efficient funding of FAA operations through fuel taxes and creating a new tax-collection bureaucracy would be too risky. Also, user fees are likely to increase once enacted.
“We regret that the administration has consistently ignored the resounding calls from Congress and the general aviation community to drop this flawed proposal,” said Lorraine Howerton, AOPA vice president of legislative affairs. “We will continue to fight against harmful user fees and for our freedom to fly.”
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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