Congress to Obama: no user fees in ’11 budget

 - October 30, 2009, 8:33 AM

Two powerful members of the House aviation subcommittee are circulating a letter urging President Obama not to include general aviation user fees in the Fiscal Year 2011 budget.

Both subcommittee chairman Jerry Costello (D-Ill.) and ranking Republican Thomas Petri (Wis.) advocate maintaining the current mechanism of using fuel taxes to support the Aviation Trust Fund, as contained in H.R.915, the “FAA Reauthorization Act of 2009,” which passed the House earlier this year.

“User fees are not needed to raise revenue for the trust fund,” the two lawmakers wrote in the letter, which they expected to send to the President by the end of last month. “The current system of aviation excise taxes has proved to be a stable and efficient source of funding for our aviation system. Furthermore, we believe that user fees will place an undue administrative burden, and associated costs, on system users– particularly small businesses and general aviation users.”

The proposed 2010 FAA budget that the White House released in May makes it obvious that the Obama Administration wants to reduce the General Fund support for aviation in FY2011 and replace it with $9.6 billion coming from user fees. That figure increases to $11 billion by 2014.

Costello and Petri pointed out that past administrations have proposed aviation user fees several times, and the House has opposed this approach in legislation to reauthorize the FAA both in the 110th and 111th (current) congresses. Therefore, proposing user fees to finance the FAA would be a non-starter in the House and a major distraction from the number-one priority, modernizing the ATC system.

FAA reauthorization has been placed on a back burner in the Senate while that body considers health-care reform and climate-change legislation, along with numerous appropriations bills. But the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved an FAA reauthorization bill in July that also calls for the agency to be funded through fuel taxes and not user fees.

In late September, 32 aviation community stakeholders wrote to all members of the Senate emphasizing the importance of passing a comprehensive, multi-year FAA reauthorization act. “The recent passage of the seventh extension in the last two years highlights how critically overdue this important legislation has become,”
they said.