But Increased Bizav-Oriented Fees Raise Concerns
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association tells ANN the Senate
Commerce Committee has taken to heart much of what AOPA members
have told Congress about FAA funding. On Thursday, aviation
subcommittee Chairman John D. Rockefeller and Ranking Member Trent
Lott introduced an FAA bill, Aviation Investment and Modernization
Act of 2007, that responds to many pilots' concerns... but still
misses the fundamental AOPA principle of "no user fees for any
segment of aviation."
"This bill is a lot better than the FAA's proposed legislation,"
said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Our thanks to Senators Rockefeller
and Lott as they intend to keep piston-powered general aviation
taxes right where they are today. But we have real concerns about
the precedent-setting introduction of user fees and the impacts on
our members who fly turbine aircraft."
Rockefeller and Lott are proposing to the Senate Finance
Committee (responsible for taxes) that the tax on aviation gasoline
remain at 19.4 cents per gallon.
As Aero-News reported
Wednesday, there would be no user fees for piston GA
under the Senate plan... nor would there be any increase in the
existing fees the FAA charges for some services such as aircraft
registration or pilot certificates. The bill would eliminate the
FAA's proposed "congestion fee" for operations in Class B airspace.
Unlike the FAA's legislation, which would drastically affect GA
airports by cutting airport funding by almost $1 billion a year,
the Senate bill would increase spending on airports above current
However, Part 91 turbine owners and pilots would still get a tax
increase... along with an IFR user fee.
There would be a $25 per flight "Air Traffic Modernization"
surcharge imposed on all flights. Piston-engine general aviation
aircraft, turboprop aircraft "operating outside of controlled
airspace," and military, public service, and air ambulances would
be exempt from the user fee.
Rockefeller and Lott also propose an increase in the jet fuel
tax from 24 to 49 cents per gallon. The increase would be phased in
over the next five years.
"As much as we like some parts of
this bill, we're still opposed to the principle of user fees, even
though piston GA is exempt for now," said Boyer.
"Once a 'fee' or 'surcharge' enters our funding system, we step
onto the slippery slope, and it would only be a matter of time
before fees trickle down to all of general aviation," Boyer said.
"It's happened everywhere else in the world."
Boyer (shown at right) again questioned the need for additional
funding sources for the FAA. "We have yet to see a concrete plan
and budget for ATC modernization," he said, "and the government's
own experts have told Congress that the current funding system can
easily provide the money that the FAA thinks it might need for its
Boyer said that AOPA would be meeting soon with members of
the Senate Commerce Committee to explain where pilots stand on the
Rockefeller-Lott FAA funding bill.
"It is clear our members still have real difficulty with user
fees on any segment of aviation," said Boyer.
The Rockefeller-Lott funding bill is one of at least three FAA
reauthorization bills now in the works in Congress. The first bill
out of the chute was the FAA's "Next Generation Transportation
System Financing Reform Act of 2007." That bill, backed by the Bush
administration and the airlines, proposed huge tax increases and
user fees, but it was not well received by the aviation committees
in the House and Senate.
The Rockefeller-Lott bill is the Senate Commerce Committee's
alternative to the administration's bill. Members of the House
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee are also writing their
own FAA reauthorization bill. While details of the House bill are
not yet public, Boyer reiterated GA's opposition to any user fees
in a meeting this week with House aviation subcommittee Chairman
Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.).
After the bills are formally introduced into Congress, there
will be hearings, votes, and amendments. It's entirely probable
that the final FAA reauthorization bills from the House and Senate
will be different, so a conference committee will work out the
differences and send a unified bill back to both the Senate and
House for a final vote.
"AOPA will be there throughout the entire process," said Boyer.
"We'll be working for the best FAA funding bill that gets the
agency the money it truly needs without exorbitant tax increases
and, most assuredly, without user fees."