AOPA members are reaching out to their elected officials, and their senators and representatives are listening.
The latest senator to respond to an AOPA member on the user fee and avgas tax-hike proposal is Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.), who sits on the Appropriations and Commerce, Science, and Transportation committees. Both committees will play an influential role in drafting a new bill on FAA funding.
"I will not support that proposal," Sen. Dorgan wrote to an AOPA member regarding the FAA's proposal. "I did some flying myself years ago and I am acutely aware of the role general aviation plays.... To increase the rate of aviation fuel tax more than three times is something I intend to oppose aggressively.
"Frankly, I don't think there is a ghost of a chance that this proposal is going to be accepted by Congress. I have spoken with a number of my colleagues about it, and many of them feel the same way I do."
"Even though we have a lot of support in Congress, we still have a tough battle ahead of us," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "And so far, we've seen that the legislators who are supporting us in this fight are our allies because their constituents have told them to oppose user fees and the avgas tax hike."
Key members of Congress, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), have responded to AOPA members' correspondence, saying that they share the same concerns as the GA community.
"I understand your concerns about this fee structure and the increase in gas prices," Sen. Reid wrote to an AOPA member.
Alaska's Sen. Ted Stevens, vice chairman of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and Rep. Don Young, chairman of the House Committee on Transportation, both told AOPA members that that the FAA's proposal would not work in its current form.
"I realize the fee system in the FAA's proposal is extremely controversial in Alaska," Republican Stevens wrote. "While I don't think we can simply maintain the status quo, I am not convinced the entire funding system needs revamping."
Rep. Young said that while Congress had a lot of work to do on the reauthorization of FAA funding, he hopes a suitable bill will be passed through Congress before the end of the year.
"I do not endorse the proposed plan which was submitted to Congress," Republican Young wrote. "The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will continue to meet with representatives of the aviation industry and explore various alternatives. Although I am no longer chairman of this committee, I still have a strong voice and have worked with current Chairman Oberstar for many years."
Rep. John Boozman (R-Ark.), a member of the House aviation subcommittee, reassured an Arkansas member that he would oppose the FAA's proposal.
"Like you, I am very concerned about the FAA's proposal," Boozman wrote. "The proposed user fees and taxes will have a significant impact on general aviation, which could deter pilots from flying and cause financial problems for general aviation airports."
Meanwhile, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said, "It is unacceptable to shift so much of the cost burden onto general aviation."
In addition to dozens of legislators who have expressed their support for general aviation, Rep. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) have also chimed in that they, too, oppose user fees and an increase in the fuel tax.
"These responses are the result of AOPA members getting involved in the FAA funding debate and contacting their legislators," Boyer said. "This is proof that your voice counts, and we will be continuing to turn to members as the issue progresses through the congressional approval process."
Keep up to date on the FAA funding issue.
Updated: April 23, 2007, 4:12 p.m. EDT