Legislators Oppose President’s Proposed User Fee

 - April 3, 2012, 2:30 AM

Members of both houses of Congress have sent letters to President Obama decrying his advocacy of a $100-per-flight user fee on turbine-powered aircraft that fly in “controlled airspace” in his proposed Fiscal Year 2013 federal budget.

In a March 12 letter, 28 senators told the President that bipartisan passage of the comprehensive, multi-year FAA reauthorization bill was possible “in part because it did not assess new user fees on general aviation (GA).

“We are concerned a new user fee like the one described in the Administration’s budget proposal may create a disincentive for pilots and aircraft to use air traffic control services or fly in controlled airspace,” they wrote. “Controlled airspace exists around virtually every public-use airport regardless of whether there is an air traffic control facility present. By discouraging ATC use, this proposal may inadvertently create a less safe aviation environment.”

The letter, circulated by Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), co-chairs of the Senate GA Caucus, added, “We believe the per-gallon tax assessed on aviation gasoline and jet fuel is the most efficient and effective way to generate revenue from aviation users.”

The White House proposal would bypass that existing per-gallon system and create a new bureaucratic regime within the FAA to collect a new user fee. The two senators added, “We urge you to consider using the FAA Reauthorization as a framework for funding our nation’s aviation system.”

Earlier last month, the House of Representatives also wrote to Obama to “express our strong opposition to the proposed $100-per-flight fee on commercial and general aviation in your Fiscal Year 2013 budget proposal.”

That letter was signed by the leaders of the House aviation subcommittee and the chairmen of the House General Aviation Caucus, as well as more than 191 other members of the lower chamber.

“Aviation user fees have been proposed several times by different Administrations, both Republican and Democrat,” they wrote. “Congress has repeatedly and overwhelmingly rejected them.” According to the letter, the fee would have a “devastating impact” on commercial and general aviation, as well as the aviation manufacturing industry.

“Imposing a $100-per-flight fee on commercial and general aviation is the wrong approach, and we respectfully request that you abandon this idea once and for all,” the lawmakers wrote.

According to an article in the Alaska Dispatch, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) signed the Senate letter. But she had previously written one of her own to President Obama expressing her concerns over the proposed fee.

“The negative impacts associated with the user fees you proposed would obstruct the Alaska transportation system and negatively impact the U.S. economy and I urge you to reconsider proposing such a fee for deficit reduction,” she wrote to the President.

After the Senate sent its letter, NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen thanked the senators for standing up for general aviation and sending the letter to remind the President of their opposition to new user fees.

“The letters from the House and Senate underscore the fact that there is bipartisan, bicameral opposition to user fees on Capitol Hill,” he said. “The senators are right. For decades, the fuel tax has been an efficient, effective and reliable means for general aviation to pay for its use of the system.

“There is no need to replace this pay-at-the-pump mechanism with a new user-fee collection bureaucracy,” he added.