The Bush administration claims that it needs a huge tax increase on general aviation and new user fees for the airlines in order to pay for NextGen - the FAA's modernization plan for the air traffic control system.
But that argument isn't entirely true. Even the administration has been forced to admit that.
On Tuesday, during a hearing in the House appropriations subcommittee on transportation, and housing and urban development, ranking member Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.) asked if the current excise-tax-funded aviation trust fund could pay for NextGen.
It could, admitted the administration (represented by Department of Transportation Inspector General Calvin Scovel), as long as there were a continued general fund contribution.
"Once again, AOPA's analysis has been ratified by the federal government," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "The current funding system could provide some $20 billion for NextGen, if we continue to pay about 23 percent of the FAA's budget from the general fund as we have done for the last four decades."
Rep. Knollenberg asked if the administration's proposed funding bill (the Next Generation Air Transportation System Financing Reform Act of 2007) could pay for NextGen.
No, not without the ability to borrow, said the Government Accountability Office's (GAO's) Managing Director of Physical Infrastructure Patricia Dalton.
"Even FAA Administrator Marion Blakey has admitted that its proposal would raise $600 to $900 million less each year than the current tax system," said Boyer. "So which funding system is 'broken?'"
March 8, 2007