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Scrap the need for user fees, AOPA tells Senate committee

The Senate Finance Committee should remove the need for a user fee from the Senate FAA funding bill and reject airline tax breaks, AOPA said July 19.

"My request to you, Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, reject the calls for user fees for any segment of aviation," said AOPA President Phil Boyer in a statement submitted to the energy, natural resources, and infrastructure subcommittee of the Finance Committee.

While this committee cannot remove the $25 per flight user fee currently in the Senate FAA funding bill, it can make sure there is sufficient funding for air traffic control modernization using the existing excise tax system.

The Senate version of an FAA funding bill (S.1300), created by the Senate Commerce Committee, proposes giving the airlines a $500 million tax break by eliminating the 4.3 cents per gallon airline fuel tax. To make up for that revenue loss to the aviation trust fund, they asked for a 27.3 cents per gallon tax increase on jet fuel. And to raise more money for NextGen (air traffic control modernization), the Commerce Committee wants to impose a user fee on turbine aircraft flying in controlled airspace.

They could add a user fee, but that committee couldn't actually remove the airline fuel tax. That's because the Commerce Committee has jurisdiction on fees, but the Finance Committee has jurisdiction over taxes.

So AOPA asked the Finance Committee to implicitly reject user fees by not giving the airlines a tax break.

And AOPA went even further, supporting a small tax increase on general aviation, because it would be the right thing to do for the future of all aviation.

"General aviation is willing to help pay for air traffic control modernization, but we are not willing to pay for a tax cut for the airlines," Boyer told the committee. "How can an airline tax break even be considered if there is need for more money to modernize the system?"

AOPA endorsed the 4.8 cent per gallon increase in aviation gasoline taxes (8.9 cents increase on jet fuel) proposed in the House version of the FAA funding bill, H.R.2881. The association also did not oppose the increases in various transactional charges for aircraft and airman registration also included in H.R.2881.

"General aviation pilots are supportive of the move from 1950s radar to ADS-B, the central component of NextGen," said Boyer. "And they're willing to pay for it. With a fuel tax, not user fees."

July 19, 2007

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