By Warren D. Morningstar
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) says that, in his opinion, “user fees are dead.” In a videotape address to more than 400 pilots attending an AOPA Pilot Town Meeting in Fort Lauderdale on Jan. 10, Nelson said that the Senate is working hard to reach final agreement on the issue of FAA funding.
He reminded pilots that he had coauthored an amendment to strip user fees from S.1300, the Senate Commerce Committee bill to “reauthorize” the FAA budget and spending. Although the Nelson-Sununu amendment failed by just one vote, Nelson said it “signaled that user fees are dead and it signaled that they are going to be out of the final FAA reauthorization bill. When this bill gets to the floor, I don’t expect that I’ll have to offer the amendment again.”
While the House last year passed H.R.2881 to fund the FAA, the Senate has not yet passed its version of a funding bill. Senators still have to reconcile S.1300, which includes a $25-per-flight turbine user fee, and the companion tax bill from the Finance Committee (S.2345) that does not. The Senate is scheduled to return to work Jan. 22. Meanwhile, Congress extended the previous FAA budget and aviation excise taxes to pay for it until Feb. 29.
“While it’s encouraging to hear Sen. Nelson’s assessment, in politics it isn’t over until the final vote,” said AOPA President Phil Boyer. “The airlines haven’t given up on user fees and more taxes on general aviation, and you can bet their lobbyists will be buttonholing senators as soon as they’re back in Washington.
“AOPA will be working even harder on Capitol Hill, and when the timing is right, we’ll be asking all of our members to weigh in with their senators.”
January 10, 2008