While there is adamant opposition to increased aviation taxes and new user fees from many members of the House aviation subcommittee, there is a slightly different wind blowing on the Senate side of the Capitol. Questions are being raised about how to resolve the huge differences among general aviation, the airlines, and the Bush administration over how to fund the FAA.
"Everyone of you is going to have to pay more, do more, give more," Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) told representatives from the airline (ATA), airport (AAAE), air cargo (CAA), controllers union (NATCA), and business aviation communities (NBAA) during a hearing on March 8 before the Senate Commerce aviation subcommittee.
"It's time we do something grand. You're all going to pay more," said Lott.
And that was after Sen. Inhofe's impassioned plea to preserve GA (see " Sen. Inhofe sticks up for GA").
"But what was interesting was that there seemed to be less enthusiasm for user fees this time," said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs.
"The thousands of letters our members have already sent to Congress are beginning to have an impact. And as the FAA funding proposal moves through various committees, AOPA will be contacting more of our members to write to specific senators and representatives at the right time when additional letters will be most effective," Cebula added.
Sen. John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), chairman of the aviation subcommittee, noted that the administration's FAA funding proposal is being "assaulted and attacked by everybody...are there areas where you could reach accommodation with each other?"
The consensus among those testifying Thursday was that the air traffic control system needs to be modernized. But there was no agreement on how to pay for it, or even if additional money is really needed.
"The FAA has not yet made a solid case supporting their proposed changes," said Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii), chairman of the full Commerce Committee. "Any aviation proposal that moves through Congress must deliver the promise of improving access and providing affordable, secure, and quality air service to all Americans, regardless of geographic location."
Even ATA, the airlines trade organization, seemed to be backing down a little. The once-strident proponent of user fees is now referring to "usage taxes" instead, and saying they want Congress to remain in control of ATC funding decisions.
"Clearly, the airlines are concerned about the powerful influence that AOPA members can have on Congress," said Cebula. "They really would prefer that GA just go away.
March 8, 2007