By Warren D. Morningstar
President Bush on Nov. 15 announced a series of measures to reduce airline delays, including opening restricted airspace on the East Coast to commercial flights during the holiday season. And he renewed the administration's call for higher taxes and user fees on general aviation.
"If we really want to solve this problem, it's time for Congress to modernize the FAA, and we've given them a blueprint to do so," said Bush, referring to the administration's FAA funding bill that would increase GA avgas taxes by 263 percent and impose user fees. And he praised Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.) as people in Congress "who understand the need to act." The Rockefeller-Lott FAA funding bill (S.1300) includes a $25 per flight user fee on turbine aircraft.
He also called for "congestion pricing," charging aircraft higher fees to land during busy times, or auctioning the right to take off or land at a specific time to the highest bidder.
"The president's statement is a reminder that the FAA funding issue is far from resolved, and that there is still the possibility of a bill coming out of Congress that would be harmful to general aviation," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "The Senate needs to act and pass the American Infrastructure Investment and Improvement Act of 2007 that came out of the Finance Committee last September."
The House of Representatives has already passed its FAA funding bill, H.R.2881, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2007. But two different Senate committees are in disagreement over user fees versus taxes, airline tax breaks, and some other issues. Those disagreements will not be resolved before the Congress goes home for the holidays on Dec. 14. (Congress will likely pass a "continuing resolution" to keep the FAA operating into the first part of next year.)
"That means we'll pick up the FAA funding fight again in January," said Boyer. "We'll renew our efforts to convince the Senate to pass an FAA funding (authorization) bill without user fees. We cannot modernize ATC and build new runways without it.
"And once again, we'll be calling on AOPA members to contact their senators when the time is right."
November 15, 2007