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Mon, Nov 19, 2007

AOPA's Boyer Warns The User Fee Issue Is 'Far From Resolved'

President's Airline Plan Includes Call For Higher GA Taxes

Buried in President Bush's call last week for a set of sweeping measures aimed at combating airline flight delays was an all-too familiar appeal for higher taxes and fee on general aviation, according to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

"If we really want to solve this problem, it's time for Congress to modernize the FAA, and we've given them a blueprint to do so," said Bush, referring to the administration's FAA funding bill that would increase GA avgas taxes by 263 percent and impose user fees.

The President also praised Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Trent Lott (R-MS) as people in Congress "who understand the need to act." Little wonder, that... as both have also shown predilections towards acting unilaterally.

As ANN reported earlier this year, both senators threatened general aviation pilots with repercussions, if the blanket user fee for pilots of turbine aircraft filing an IFR flight plan -- as spelled out in the Rockefeller-Lott Senate FAA funding bill (S.1300) -- wasn't adopted. "There are ways to do that, and we will find those ways," Rockefeller said menacingly in July.

Bush also called for "congestion pricing" -- charging aircraft higher fees to land during busy times, or auctioning the right to take off or land at a specific time to the highest bidder. Though many assume those fees are for commercial airliners... there's nothing stopping the government from imposing those same fees on business jets operating at busier airports, or even smaller GA planes.

"The president's statement is a reminder that the FAA funding issue is far from resolved, and that there is still the possibility of a bill coming out of Congress that would be harmful to general aviation," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "The Senate needs to act and pass the American Infrastructure Investment and Improvement Act of 2007 that came out of the Finance Committee last September."

The House of Representatives has already passed its FAA funding bill, H.R.2881, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2007. But two different Senate committees are in disagreement over user fees versus taxes, airline tax breaks, and some other issues.

Those disagreements will not be resolved before the Congress goes home for the holidays on December 14, meaning Congress will likely pass a "continuing resolution" to keep the FAA operating into the first part of next year.

"That means we'll pick up the FAA funding fight again in January," said Boyer. "We'll renew our efforts to convince the Senate to pass an FAA funding (authorization) bill without user fees. We cannot modernize ATC and build new runways without it.

Boyer also implored AOPA members "to contact their senators when the time is right" to remind them that pilots vote, too.

FMI: www.senate.gov, www.aopa.org

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