Congress should pass a four-year FAA funding bill that is based on aviation fuel taxes, ticket taxes, and general fund contributions, AOPA President Craig Fuller said in testimony submitted on May 13 to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. The hearing allowed aviation stakeholders to share their views on FAA reauthorization.
“The existing financing mechanism has served the nation well, providing a stable and reliable aviation system during good and difficult times over the last 50 years,” Fuller said. “Aviation fuel taxes collected at the pump and ticket taxes collected at the counter, combined with a healthy contribution from the general tax fund, remain the best way to pay for the nation’s aviation system and avoid an unfair burden on general aviation and costly new bureaucracy.”
General fund contributions
In his submitted testimony, Fuller explained that other modes of transportation receive investments from the general fund: 75 percent of waterway funds come from taxpayers, and Amtrak receives more than 40 percent from the fund. During the last eight years, the average general fund contribution to the aviation trust fund has been 22 percent; this year it is 25 percent.
Because aviation trust fund tax receipts for Fiscal Year 2009 are expected to drop to $11.3 billion (from $12 billion in Fiscal Year 2008), Fuller urged the committee to “anticipate a need for a larger general fund contribution to the FAA’s budget, probably in the neighborhood of 25-30 percent in 2009—still well within historical norms.”
Aviation fuel taxes
AOPA strongly advocates the continued use of passenger transportation and aviation fuel taxes, even if the taxes need to increase.
Fuller noted the association’s disappointment in the administration’s Fiscal Year 2010 budget proposal, which would reduce aviation excise taxes and levy direct user charges starting in 2011.
Stable funding mechanism
Fuller also emphasized the need for a stable, fair FAA funding system at this critical time, when the aviation industry is working to modernize the air traffic control system (NextGen) and improve safety and airport infrastructure. Such a funding system would be based on taxes and general fund contributions, not direct user charges.
“We urge you to move expeditiously in approving a four-year bill that provides support for federal investments in safety, modernizing the air traffic control system, FAA operations, airport improvements, and aviation research efforts,” Fuller stated. “We endorse the financing mechanism of using the time-tested system of passenger transportation and the agreed-to increases in general aviation fuel taxes in combination with general fund tax revenues to support the FAA and the aviation system.”