AOPA FAA Funding Debate
Fact and fiction
At every public opportunity, the airlines and the FAA have been telling a one-sided story in favor of user fees. Each has its own agenda, of course. The airlines want a system in which they can control access and shift costs away from them to general aviation.
The FAA wants a system that removes Congress from decisions on spending, taxing, and fees. The FAA would like to set its own budget and then charge the users whatever it takes to pay the agency's costs.
The FAA has been pushing hard for user fees, often trying to walk the line between overt support of such fees and promises that the fees would be limited to specific operations and types of aircraft. Here are some of the facts and fiction behind the agency's arguments.
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Like the FAA, the airlines have proposed user fees as a way to give them increased control of the air traffic system while lowering their out-of-pocket costs. As with other arguments for user fees, the airlines' claims just don't stand up to the facts.
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Truths to remember
- The U.S. air transportation system is the safest, most efficient, and largest in the world, effectively handling more traffic over a larger area than any other country.
- The aviation trust fund—the primary source of FAA funding today—is growing and will continue to grow in the future. It is not running out of money.
- The mechanisms now in place to collect excise taxes to support aviation work efficiently; creating a new system would require expensive new infrastructure.
- As elected representatives of the American people, Congress has a vital role as the "board of directors" for the FAA, providing budget and management oversight.
- Because a strong aviation system benefits every American, all taxpayers should help pay for it in the form of a general fund contribution.
- Cost cutting and air traffic control modernization are not mutually exclusive. The FAA can do both.
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