'User Fees' By Any Other Name?
The Aircraft Owners and
Pilots Association tells Aero-News that in a speech earlier this
week to the Aero Club of Washington, DC, FAA Administrator Marion
Blakey (file photo, right) again said the agency is nearly broke...
and she held out her hat on a possible solution.
"A change in our funding system is not only necessary, it is
warranted," Blakey said. "Our ability to pay the operations bills
is literally tied to the price of a ticket. Low-cost carriers
driving the market, more and smaller aircraft up there, you do the
math. The equation doesn't work."
While Blakey raises a valid point -- the FAA budget is
determined in large part to fees the agency collects from taxes on
airline tickets -- others, including the Office of Management and
Budget, say they have done the math, and the numbers simply don't
"Rather than the FAA's predictions of an aviation trust fund
collapse, the OMB predicts continued trust fund growth," said AOPA
President Phil Boyer.
Under the agency's current funding plan, the FAA's authority to
collect ticket and fuel taxes will expire in 2007 -- and FAA and
Department of Transportation officials want to use that opportunity
to change the system.
"What we need is a constant, stable revenue stream, one that's
tied to the actual cost of the services we provide," Blakey told
the Aero Club. "What a difference that could make for the FAA, what
a difference that could make for the future of aviation."
Does Blakey mean that
"user fees" -- an exact term Blakey is careful not to use
around pilots -- are what the FAA is looking at future
funding? AOPA says it is -- and, no surprise, that it's not a good
"It's difficult to imagine any other system where the 'revenue
stream' is tied to the actual cost of the services provided," said
Boyer. "If you charge a fee for the service your revenue can be
tied to providing that service."
AOPA has previously stated if pilots are charged for utilizing
such services as FSS, pilots will opt not to use such services to
save money -- a system that would inevitably cause far more
harm than good.
Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta did say at AOPA Expo
earlier this month that, from his perspective, user fees would not
be the solution for general aviation. But Mineta also acknowledged
that the battle against GA user fees is far from won.