GA User Fees DOA, Lobby Groups Remind President

 - September 30, 2011, 10:45 PM

Politicians like to use the term “dead on arrival” to refer to unpalatable bills, and that’s how 116 bipartisan members of the House earlier this year described a trial balloon floated by the Obama Administration on user fees for general aviation.

When the President called for a new $100 per-flight tax for turbine aircraft flying on IFR flight plans last month, part of his plan to address the nation’s deficit and job crisis, GA found itself oddly aligned with the nation’s airlines in opposing the proposal.

Nine general aviation organizations found themselves in lockstep with the Air Transport Association (ATA) and the Regional Airline Association (RAA) in decrying Obama’s per-flight charge. The GA groups pointed out to Obama that many foreign counties have imposed per-flight charges on general aviation and “the results have been devastating.”

Meanwhile, the ATA, which represents the nation’s leading U.S. airlines, and the RAA, which represents North American regional airlines, also decried the White House proposal to triple the security tax passengers pay.

In a joint statement, the Aircraft Electronics Association, AOPA, the Experimental Aircraft Association, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, the Helicopter Association International, the International Council of Air Shows, the National Association of State Aviation Officials, the National Air Transportation Association and NBAA reminded Obama that the issue of how GA can best contribute revenue to the federal government has been the subject of significant study and debate as part of the FAA reauthorization process.

“After careful consideration, both chambers of Congress have passed bills that endorse the per-gallon fuel charges rather than adopt a per-flight tax similar to the one you propose,” the associations said. “In fact, Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives felt so strongly about the issue that 116 members of that body sent you a letter earlier this year saying new aviation charges like the one you are now proposing would be ‘dead on arrival.’”

Proposed Plan Would Have ‘Devastating’ Effects

The GA groups said the per-flight tax will not only impose a significant new administrative burden on general aviation operators who currently pay through an efficient per-gallon fuel charge at the pump, but it will also necessitate the creation of a costly new federal collection bureaucracy.

The ATA said the plan to hike aviation taxes would hurt the economic recovery, further burden airlines and customers and cost jobs. The RAA warned that in just the first year, it could cause sharp service reductions at all U.S. communities, outright elimination of scheduled air service at potentially hundreds of small- and medium-size communities, and would aggravate the country’s jobs crisis beginning day one by threatening the job security of 53,000 airline workers.

The Alliance for Aviation Across America also urged Congress to reject the user fees, as it has repeatedly done to date. The organization said that on behalf of more than 5,700 small businesses, farms, elected officials, Chambers of Commerce and aircraft operators in all 50 states, it was “deeply concerned” about the inclusion of a user-fee tax in the President’s recently released plan to create jobs.

“It is astounding that the President would include user fees–which would add to the daunting challenges already confronting businesses in this climate–in a plan that purports to create jobs and stimulate the economy,” the alliance added.

According to a table in the White House proposal, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) calculated that the per-flight fee would generate an estimated $11 billion over 10 years. Additionally, the proposal calls for closing the “corporate jet tax loophole,” which the White House figures would save the federal government another $4.6 billion over 10 years. OMB further claimed that total charges collected from aviation users would finance roughly three-quarters of airport investments and ATC system costs.