Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Boyer at Oshkosh.
EAA President Tom Poberezny, aviation subcommittee members Reps. Thomas Petri (R-Wisc.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Candice Miller (R-Mich., Transportation Committee member), Jerry Costello (D-Ill.), Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.), Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa), and Sam Graves (R-Mo.).
A bipartisan group of representatives from the House aviation subcommittee made one thing clear: The House FAA funding bill (H.R.2881) is the best way to pay for FAA operations and modernization.
Speaking to a crowd of pilots on July 28 at Oshkosh, the members of Congress predicted a tough fight and strong opposition from the Senate and the White House to their bill but pledged their determination to continue fighting against user fees.
Meanwhile, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), in conversations with AOPA President Phil Boyer at Oshkosh, said he has an amendment in the works that would deal with the general aviation user fees in the Senate bill (S.1300).
House aviation subcommittee Chairman Jerry Costello (D-Ill.) said that H.R.2881 would provide more than enough money for all current and future FAA needs. In fact, the House bill would generate more money for air traffic control modernization than the taxes and user fees proposed by the FAA.
Ranking member Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.) said of user fees, "We don't want to give the FAA a blank check," while Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) said that shifting more of FAA costs onto general aviation would "wreak havoc on all of you," and would not be fair.
Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) noted that most members of Congress knew nothing about aviation issues, so it was important that pilots "educate" their representatives at the appropriate time. And he praised the general aviation organizations for "beating the bushes" to get support for H.R.2881.
Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) said that government does work in the United States, and that pilot support for the House FAA funding bill would make a difference.
Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa.) singled out Boyer and thanked him, calling him the most qualified person to lead the fight against user fees.
Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.) also recognized Boyer and AOPA, and said that the user fee issue had really solidified the GA community. (While not a member of the aviation subcommittee, Rep. Miller serves on the full Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and her husband Don is a former military aviator and AOPA member.)
And Rep. Costello told the audience that Boyer had once put a "Stop User Fees" sticker on his chair during an aviation subcommittee hearing. "We got the message," he said.
The aviation subcommittee members predicted that because of strong support from both sides of the aisle, H.R.2881 would likely pass the House, leading to a battle with the Senate (whose FAA funding bill includes user fees) in conference committee.
But not if Sen. Inhofe is successful with his amendment. Inhofe, a pilot and AOPA member, is general aviation's staunchest defender in the Senate, "Where we really need friends," Boyer said. Inhofe and Boyer spent significant time together at the Oshkosh show.
AOPA's vice president of legislative affairs, Christine Corcoran, also spent time at Oshkosh talking to members of Congress and their staffs about FAA funding and user fees.
July 30, 2007