More than a quarter of the House urged President Barack Obama not to include aviation user fees in his 2012 budget in a letter Jan. 21.
The letter, signed by 116 members of Congress, expressed support for the current system of funding for the FAA and said that inclusion of user fees in the Fiscal Year 2012 budget "would be a step backward in our efforts to modernize our air traffic control system and fund FAA operations." The bipartisan effort was led by Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.), chairman of the House aviation subcommittee, and Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.), ranking member of the subcommittee. Signatories hoped to duplicate the success of a similar letter sent in 2009 that had 118 signatures.
"Chairman Petri, Ranking Member Costello, and 114 of their colleagues have set aside partisan differences to make it clear that user fees are the wrong way to fund the aviation system," said AOPA President Craig Fuller. "They have stood firm and told the Obama Administration that user fees would be bad for general aviation, for our national transportation system, and for the broader economy. Their stance demonstrates how well they understand the role and value of general aviation, and all of us in the GA community appreciate their willingness to step forward and address this issue head on."
"In 2009 we sent a bipartisan letter to President Obama requesting that aviation user fees not be part of the 2011 budget proposal," said Petri. "This effort was supported by the general aviation and business aviation community, and we were pleased our message was heard and no user fees were proposed. Now we want that message heard again.
"The U.S. has the most vibrant general aviation community in the world and would be severely impacted by imposing user fees," he said. "We don't want the administrative nightmare which would result from user fees."
The letter explains that the House opposed user fees in FAA reauthorization legislation in both the 110th and 111th Congresses, and that the signatories support the current system of aviation excise taxes, which has proven a stable and efficient source of funding.
"We are making another strong statement with this letter that a user fee proposal would be a step backward," said Costello. "This is an issue that we have had bipartisan agreement on in recent years and there is no reason to reconsider it. User fees are a non-starter."
AOPA called on its members to contact their representatives and urge them to sign on to the letter; members heeded the call, and their support helped grow the list of signatures to a number that rivaled the 2009 letter—an impressive feat given the number of new members of Congress.