The fight against user fees and unreasonable tax increases on general aviation is going well so far, AOPA President Phil Boyer told some 400 pilots at an AOPA Pilot Town Meeting at Sun 'n Fun April 19.
"We're in a 10-round fight," said Boyer, "and we've just finished the fourth round. We don't have much blood on us yet. But like any fight, there could be a knockout punch. The airlines have a vast war chest of money, so we can't let our guard down."
And yet another influential member of Congress has come out against the FAA funding bill, a proposal dreamed up by the Bush administration and the airlines.
"You all have a big issue of user fees, trying to shift the burden of our airways over to you, general aviation pilots. That should not be," Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) told the gathering in Lakeland, Florida, via a video message. "I think we will be able to send that particular proposal into File 13."
Sen. Nelson, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee that has jurisdiction over the FAA funding bill, promised he would work with Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), chairman of the aviation subcommittee, "to craft FAA funding legislation that will garner the support of your community."
While the number of legislators who oppose the FAA's bill continues to grow, Boyer cautioned that, in the ways of Washington, nothing is ever final until the final vote. For example, some key members of Congress represent states highly dependent upon tourism, which means they will carefully consider claims from the airlines.
Boyer also said that while GA stands with fists raised against unreasonable tax increases, "it's been since 1993 since anybody has touched our taxes. You can't talk about many things that haven't gone up in price since then. But a three-and-a-half times increase in tax is not acceptable."
While he opened the door for a reasonable discussion on aviation taxes, Boyer also questioned whether there is a compelling reason for any changes to the current funding system.
He showed the audience data developed by AOPA, clearly demonstrating that with current tax levels, the FAA could pay for present operations, fund the anticipated $20 billion development costs of the "NextGen" air traffic control modernization, and still have a $4.5 billion surplus in the aviation trust fund at the end of 2011. And then he played video of the congressional testimony of experts from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Department of Transportation Inspector General's office who came to the exact same conclusion.
"With your help, we'll come out of this the way we want to, and without user fees on any segment of aviation," Boyer told the Sun 'n Fun audience.
April 20, 2007