Industry cautious about effect of Congressional power shift

 - December 5, 2006, 9:35 AM

Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), the ranking minority member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is no fan of aviation user fees. General aviation interests should be heartened because he is expected to become chairman of the committee that is responsible for FAA funding when the 110th Congress convenes early next month.

Shortly after the midterm elections in which the Democrats regained a majority in both houses of Congress, Oberstar said at a press conference that he favors continuing the aviation fuel tax for general aviation. He called eliminating the current passenger ticket tax–as proposed by the airlines–a “dumb idea.”

“The idea of a cash register in the sky to cover the cost of aviation is not appealing to me, to general aviation, to regional aviation,” Oberstar said. “There are some functions government must undertake in the public interest.”

Oberstar, who attends all meetings of the House aviation subcommittee, already has started working with committee Republicans. “We know what items have to be accomplished,” he said.

The long-time aviation advocate noted that he had opposed a similar plan proposed by the Gore Commission in 1993. He said the “airlines deciding how aviation operations, air traffic control and all the rest will be conducted” was a bad idea then and is a bad idea now.

NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen said it is difficult to say what the Democrat takeover will mean for specific aviation policies because a number of key committee chairmanships and assignments still need to be made.

“That having been said, we can expect that a Democrat-held Congress will want to have oversight and scrutiny of proposals from the White House, whether they are related to FAA reauthorization or other aviation policies,” he said. “Even with all of the changes that are taking place, we will still have a big battle ahead on user fees, and we’ll need everyone in business aviation to make their voices heard with their members of Congress.”