There should be no doubt in the aviation community about where AOPA members stand on user fees - no, no, and NO! That was the very clear message that AOPA President Phil Boyer and Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula delivered at the high-level FAA funding forum in Washington, D.C., Monday and Tuesday.
The invitation-only forum gathered a veritable who's who from the aviation industry together with government officials from agencies where user fees are already the norm to discuss changing the way the FAA is funded. Because tax revenues are declining while the FAA's costs are increasing, senior FAA and Department of Transportation officials have called for an overhaul of the FAA's funding mechanisms when Congress reauthorizes the aviation trust fund in 2007.
And while the prevailing opinion at the forum seemed to be that user fees were the "solution" to the FAA's budget woes, Boyer said, "FAA must get its costs under control first." AOPA called on the FAA to request recommendations from the industry on cost reductions, noting that the association had stepped up to the plate by supporting the FAA's efforts to find more efficient ways to provide flight service information and its plans to decommission underused NDB approaches.
"The United States leads the world in general aviation," Boyer said. "Would that continue under a user-fee system?"
Cebula, who was the last person to speak at the two-day forum, said, "I don't want this session to end without everyone knowing that there is not unanimous agreement on user fees. Our members have strong concerns about user fees." He also said that because of the public benefit that general aviation provides, part of the FAA's budget should continue to be funded from general tax revenues. He also called for a change in federal law to allow the FAA to use bonding to help fund capital improvements.
FAA Administrator Marion Blakey closed the forum by noting that the administration would use some of the ideas and information generated to develop a concept paper on FAA funding to be circulated through the industry.
April 26, 2005