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More community groups join GA in user fee battle

From cattle ranchers to coal miners, and from Iowa to West Virginia, people in rural communities are realizing the devastating impact the FAA's proposed user fees and fuel tax increases would have on general aviation.

Diverse groups are joining the Alliance for Aviation Across America in droves to send a strong message to policymakers that the GA industry and small airports are important to the national economy. These groups are against radical changes to the current funding mechanism in the FAA's version of the bill as well as the $25 per flight charges in the Senate bill. A House version is expected soon.

"For many of our tribal members, general aviation, on and off reservation land, represents an important engine of economic activity and opportunity," said Ross Racine, executive director of the Montana-based Intertribal Agriculture Council. The council promotes the conservation and development of agricultural resources for Native Americans nationwide.

"We are calling upon the Montana delegation and all members of Congress to protect jobs and economic development for our communities by rejecting user fees in any form and funding (air traffic control) modernization in a manner that is fair to all users," he continued.

Meanwhile, the Kansas Cattlemen's Association, the Mississippi Livestock Markets Association, the Independent Beef Association of North Dakota, the American Farm Bureau Federation, and the Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska are questioning why the government would consider shifting away from a proven and reliable revenue system that has worked for years.

"Small towns and rural counties depend upon general aviation for economic growth. New user fees will be bad for farmers, bad for small towns and rural communities, and bad for the economy of Mississippi," said Joel Gill, president of the Mississippi group. "We are urging our lawmakers in Washington to reject user fees in any form on any segment of general aviation."

The West Virginia Coal Association and the Kentucky Coal Association both joined the Alliance because they see the user fee scheme, and the bureaucracy required to enforce it, as a "direct tax" on businesses and industries, which would hurt the states' economies.

Officials in Quinwood, West Virginia; Lexington, Mississippi; and Red Lodge, Montana, also joined the Alliance, as did the Minneapolis League of Rural Voters.

"Our small airport is a vitally important economic engine for our town. We are working with businesses, local leaders, and government agencies to fund additional improvements to our airfield so that we can bring additional jobs and opportunities to our area," said Lexington Mayor Robin McCory.

"The imposition of new user fees on any part or type of general aviation, including a $25 per flight charge, would be a major setback for us as it would threaten our plans to build our local economy around general aviation growth," the mayor added.

The Alliance for Aviation Across America was started as a grass-roots effort to fight the FAA- and airline-backed legislation. The group is composed of rural, agricultural, and charitable organizations; local government; small businesses; and aviation professionals.

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