Aero Club Speech Repeats Call For GA User Fees, Tax Hikes
In a speech to the Aero
Club of Washington this week, Transportation Secretary Mary Peters
told a gathering of aviation industry leaders Congress needs to
act, and act soon, on an FAA reauthorization bill. That was music
to the ears of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association... but
alas, much of what Peters had to say otherwise -- about user fees,
tax increases on general aviation, and congestion pricing for
access into certain large airports -- struck the association as
more of the same old, and rather tired, song.
Peters (right) noted it has been nearly a year since the Bush
administration sent its proposal containing radical financing
changes to Capitol Hill for consideration. Both the House and the
Senate rejected that proposal for user fees and a
70-cent-per-gallon tax on avgas and jet fuel in favor of the
current tax-based structure, although the Senate retained vestiges
of the administration’s user fee proposal.
As ANN reported, in late
summer the full House approved its version (H.R.2881), supported by
AOPA, but the Senate has yet to bring its two competing versions to
the floor for debate.
"The House has passed a version that contains the elements
necessary for a good reauthorization bill that funds air traffic
control modernization and airport development with a tax-based
funding mechanism and no user fees," said AOPA President Phil
Boyer. "The aviation community has been waiting for more than four
months now for the Senate to act on FAA funding."
In a statement issued the morning after Peters' comments,
Illinois Congressman Jerry Costello, chairman of the House aviation
subcommittee, reminded Secretary Peters the House has done its
part, and joined the call for the Senate to act soon.
"I am sure that Secretary Peters remembers that the House of
Representatives passed H.R.2881, the FAA Reauthorization Act of
2007, last September," Costello said. "It took the introduction and
passage of that legislation and the rigorous oversight hearings our
subcommittee held for the Department of Transportation and the FAA
to take action on so many of the issues Secretary Peters mentioned
The House version contains no user fees and inflation-adjusted
increases in general aviation fuel taxes. The Senate Commerce
Committee has approved a $25 user fee for turbine aircraft -- which
AOPA opposes, because of concerns about the fee's potential to
expand to cover all users. The Finance Committee has recommended an
all-tax financing structure -- again supported by AOPA -- which
would eliminate the user fee.
The two versions need
to be reconciled in the full Senate, then the Senate and House need
to agree on a compromise version that can be sent to the White
House for President Bush’s signature. In the meantime, a
stopgap measure is keeping the FAA operating through February.
In theory, such emergency funding measures could continue ad
nauseum... but pending airport improvement projects are stuck in a
holding pattern, because the temporary funding does not give the
FAA permission to approve new projects.
"Holdups on Capitol Hill threaten even more delays to much
needed long-term modernization and, more immediately, badly needed
improvements at airports large and small," Boyer noted.