AOPA wants the Senate Finance Committee to know that the Senate is in for one heck of a fight if there is a continued to push for user fees along with an airline tax break at general aviation's expense.
Building on the association's success in rallying pilots to contact the Senate Commerce Committee, AOPA is now sending targeted communications to AOPA members in states with senators on the Finance Committee, the next stop for the Senate's FAA funding bill (S.1300).
"The Finance Committee is a critical link in maintaining this country's almost four-decade system of efficiently collecting aviation taxes," AOPA President Phil Boyer said in an e-mail to AOPA members in 18 states. "Your senator must hear from you now because hearings in the Finance Committee will likely be held in mid-June, with a vote prior to the July 4 congressional recess."
Boyer asked AOPA members to write their senators on the Finance Committee and urge them to reject the Commerce Committee's idea of a "surcharge." In other words, the start of user fees to fund aviation.
He said they should question why the airlines should be permitted to quit paying their 4.3 cents per gallon fuel tax, the only aviation tax that they - not their passengers - pay directly.
"If money is truly needed to modernize the aviation system, then why give the airlines another huge tax break?" Boyer asked.
AOPA members should urge their senators to act in order to continue funding the FAA through efficiently collected fuel and excise taxes.
And they should tell them that Congress must reject user fees for any segment of aviation, as user fees would be the first step toward privatizing the air traffic control system, eliminating air transportation access for many smaller communities, and pricing GA pilots out of many airports across the country.
Boyer explained that while the Finance Committee could not directly remove the $25 user fee imposed by the Commerce Committee, that committee is responsible for setting taxes, and its actions will be "important in AOPA's strategy to have the user fee removed during consideration of the bill by the full Senate."
"The FAA funding bill will move through some 12 steps before it finally becomes law," Boyer said, "and we have opportunities to influence the outcome at every step.
"The airlines have - and will - throw a lot of money into this battle," continued Boyer, "and that's why we, as pilots passionate about flying and who vote, must be involved. Passionate voters can overcome big money almost every time."
May 30, 2007