The Capitol Hill reception to the Bush administration's user fee proposal was chillier than the ice storm blanketing the Washington, D.C., area the same day.
"This proposal is dead on arrival," Rep. Vernon J. Ehlers (R-Mich.) told FAA Administrator Marion Blakey Wednesday afternoon as she tried to defend the FAA refinancing proposal before the House aviation subcommittee.
"There is no way that I can come to the conclusion that this user fee proposal is fair, equitable, or that it will work," said Rep. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.).
Yet another member of the president's party, Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), was particularly vehement in denouncing the proposed avgas tax hike and new user fees.
"I know there's going to be a gas tax hike, so I'm bracing myself," said Graves, "but then I hear 70 cents a gallon and it just floors me. I can't tell my pilots back home about this because I'm going to get pelted the moment I say it.
"It really, really disturbs me."
Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.), noting that the administration's proposal would raise some $600 million less in 2008 than the current tax system, said, "I question the wisdom of moving to a new financing system that will not generate as much revenue as the current tax structure when we clearly need to make critical investments now to ensure that our nation's air traffic control infrastructure is robust for the future."
He pushed Administrator Blakey until she finally admitted that the current system would be able to raise enough money to fund the NextGen air traffic control modernization program.
"We're not in agreement with what you are proposing," said another member of the majority party, Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa). "I think this is an unfair approach, an unwise approach, and I don't think we have to do it."
Speaking about the avgas tax increase, Rep. Graves said, "And then I talk to some of the pilots out there, and they ask me, 'What do I get for that?'
"This will make the skies safe because nobody will fly anymore."
For more information, see " The FAA Funding Debate and User Fees."
February 15, 2007