The fight against user fees

January 17, 2012

The general aviation community has fought user fees many times before—and won. Now, AOPA and a united front of aviation groups are girding for a new and familiar fight.

A proposal for a $100-per-flight user fee resurfaced Jan. 13 in a response to a petition on the White House’s “We the People” website. The aviation community is watching to see if the proposal laid out in the Office of Management and Budget’s response makes it into the president’s budget, expected to be released in February—and preparing for the possibility that it does.

The proposal is a reiteration of one that has appeared in a previous budget and a deficit-reduction proposal from the Obama administration. Congress rejected both proposals. With support among members of Congress, across a range of aviation groups, and from members, AOPA is working to make sure this proposal meets a similar end.

If the proposal makes it into the upcoming budget, opponents of user fees in Congress will have a chance to stop it. Opposition to the fees has been strong in Congress in recent years. A bipartisan group in Congress urged the president not to include the proposal in last year’s budget; more recently, a large group of members of Congress urged the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to reject the $100-per-flight fee. AOPA works to educate lawmakers about the benefits of general aviation and the dangers of introducing a new system of user fees.

AOPA is also buoyed in the fight by a united front with groups across a wide spectrum of aviation. A broad coalition spoke out against new proposed costs on aviation when they surfaced in deficit-reduction proposals in the fall. A united front among general aviation groups is also critical. While the recent proposals have tried to soften the sting by exempting “recreational piston aircraft” or “piston aircraft” from the fee, AOPA has seen the incremental growth of fees in other countries: Once the bureaucracy has its foot in the door, it only grows to new user groups and different fees.

Perhaps the most critical support in the fight against user fees comes from pilots. People who would feel the pain of new and burdensome fees can inform their lawmakers of the dangers of user fees, and AOPA may call on them to write to or call their senators and representatives if the proposal appears in the budget as anticipated. Members also may bolster AOPA’s efforts by contributing to the AOPA Political Action Committee.

AOPA Online will be following this emerging story. Check back frequently for the latest updates.