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House committee blasts user fees and cuts in airport fundingHouse committee blasts user fees and cuts in airport funding

House committee blasts user fees and cuts in airport funding

Just two days after AOPA President Phil Boyer blasted the administration for under-funding airports (see " President's budget threatens GA airports"), members of Congress took Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta to task for lopping half a billion dollars from airport grants.

"There's growth throughout the industry," Rep. Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.) told Mineta at a House Appropriations transportation subcommittee hearing Friday. "How can the administration justify a cut of this magnitude for critical airport projects?"

Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) said the budget plan could cut out GA airports entirely. And he expressed concern about the commercial airlines trying to push more of the funding burden onto general aviation. He said that the administration's budget cuts could "unfairly shift the burden to user fees," and that would "crush general aviation."

"You cannot ask private pilots to pay $300 to $500 to land at an airport," he said. "That's like asking someone to pay $100 for a metro ride [the Washington, D.C., subway system]."

Mineta said that he was "confident" that the administration's proposed $3 billion for the Airport Improvement Program would be enough to cover all funding requests for fiscal year 2006.

And repeating what he and FAA Administrator Marion Blakey said at the FAA forecast conference, Mineta noted the declining revenue from the passenger ticket tax and predicted that in 10 years the aviation trust fund wouldn't be able to meet the FAA's needs.

"There's no question that the administration is facing tremendous budget pressures, but this does not justify user fees," said Andy Cebula, AOPA senior vice president of Government and Technical Affairs. "As Phil Boyer told the Washington crowd at the FAA Forecast Conference, 'Not on our watch!'"

March 22, 2005

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