Obama Takes Another Swing at $100 User Fee

 - May 1, 2013, 1:50 AM

Despite two previous rejections by lawmakers of the $100-per-flight user fee proposed by President Obama, the White House once again has called for the unpopular levy to be included in the Fiscal Year 2014 budget, which was released on April 10.

On the eve of the President’s third consecutive swing at a tax on most operators of turbine-powered aircraft, a record 223 members of the House of Representatives signed a letter opposing his continued support of a $100-per-flight fee on commercial and general aviation. “Aviation user fees have been proposed in your last two budgets and Congress rejected them,” the letter said. “Aviation user fees have been proposed by different Administrations, both Republican and Democrat, and again Congress has repeatedly and overwhelmingly rejected them.”

House aviation subcommittee chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) and ranking member Rick Larson (D-Wash.), along with House General Aviation Caucus co-chairs Reps. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) and John Barrow (D-Ga.), drafted the letter as a preemptive first strike on the expected tax hike. But Obama remained unconvinced.

The White House has argued that all flights that use controlled airspace require a similar level of air traffic services. “To reduce the deficit and more equitably share the cost of air traffic services across the aviation user community, the budget proposes to create a $100 per-flight fee, payable to the [FAA], by aviation operators who fly in controlled airspace,” the budget preamble noted. “All piston aircraft, military aircraft, public [government] aircraft, air ambulances, aircraft operating outside controlled airspace and Canada-to-Canada flights would be exempted.”

The White House estimates the fee would generate $7.3 billion over 10 years. Assuming the enactment of the fee, total charges collected from aviation users would finance roughly three-fourths of airport investments and ATC system costs.

To ensure “appropriate input” from stakeholders on the design of the fee, the proposal would also establish “an expert commission” that could recommend to the President “a replacement charge, or charges, that would raise no less in revenue than the enacted fee.”

Airline, GA Interests United

While general aviation groups quickly lambasted the user-fee proposal, this time around the trade group representing the nation’s airlines also jumped aboard. “Instead of using the U.S. airline industry and its customers as a piggy bank for deficit reduction, this Administration should view airlines as the engine of economic growth they are,” said Nicholas Calio, president and CEO of Airlines for America.

NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen said, “It is unfortunate that the constant negative rhetoric about business aviation from the White House has once again translated into an onerous policy position, this time in the President’s newest budget proposal.”

“The President’s budget is more of the same for general aviation: more fees, more taxes and more attacks on the industry,” said General Aviation Manufacturers Association president and CEO Pete Bunce. “General aviation manufacturers are a key contributor to exports and economic growth.”

Also weighing in was Thomas Hendricks, president and CEO of the National Air Transportation Association, who reminded, “We believe the current method of collecting revenues through a per-gallon fuel tax is the most stable, efficient and equitable source of funding for the [FAA].”

“Rarely do we see so many members of Congress so united on an issue,” added AOPA president and CEO Craig Fuller. “The message is loud and clear: user fees are the wrong way to fund our aviation system and Congress won’t support them.”

Comments

Bill Strawn's picture

If Congress feels so strongly against User Fees, why haven't they increased fuel taxes enough to raise what the White House losers, both under Pres Bush and Pres Obama, say user fees will raise, including the admin overhead user fees would cost. Win/win to me. We pilots avoid another onerous, administratively burdened fee, FAA gets even more money than they would with user fees. I'll gladly add 5 cents a gallon to my fuel tax to avoid the paperwork ridden user fees.

Pete Taylor's picture

Perhaps the answer is to abolish controlled airspace other than the DC SFRA

Pete Taylor's picture

The obvious solution here is to abolish Federal Hegemony over Airspace outside the DC SFRA and below FL180. Let the big class Bravos fund and control their own airspace and leave the rest of the terminal spaces to the discretion of the locals that use them. The aviation trust funds are already overfunded and being gamed in the smoldering class warfare and redistributive policies of our Obamanation. Local authority should seize the ticket and fuel revenues before the Feds can get their hands on our money and decide to tell us how they want to spend it. Smaller Government and Lower Costs go hand in hand.

Steve Mott's picture

The Obama Administration is doing the same thing many state and local governments are. Without public support for increased taxes, agencies at all levels are shunting things general fund or other established taxes have heretofor paid for into speecial fees. They then divert the portion previously paid by those general taxes to other areas not previously intended (often pork projects that are probably deserving of budget cuts).

Pete Danes's picture

Thank heaven that at least on one thing, Congress has enough sense to see past the end of its own nose. I'm living in Europe at the moment, and one look at the state of GA here is all the argument I'll ever need against user fees.

Tim Kern's picture

Socialism and full government control are expensive. We'd better get used to that.

Socialism is "free" only when everybody pays for everything, whether they want/use it or not.

Tim Kern's picture

Socialism and full government control are expensive. We'd better get used to that.

Socialism is "free" only when everybody pays for everything, whether they want/use it or not.

Mike's picture

Do people honestly believe $7.3 Billion over 10 years! is going mean a hella beans, when the FAA is requesting $15.6 billion FY2014 alone!?!

leroy rocco's picture

The air is ok as long as they apply it to all modes of transportation
I can see controlling boats ,cars ,horses. This surely will generate alot of money and headache

so cal cfi's picture

I do not see where anyone really understands the fees. As a long term pilot in California general aviation pilots will just not use controlled airspace. The risk to safety will be great, but less expensive for pilots.

so cal cfi's picture

I do not see where anyone really understands the fees. As a long term pilot in California general aviation pilots will just not use controlled airspace. The risk to safety will be great, but less expensive for pilots.

Bill's picture

The problem began when local airports agreed to accept federal money for funding. All towers for smaller GA airports should be run and funded by the local communities. It is simply wrong to ask a fellow pilot in nowhere Oklahoma to fund a GA tower in North Atlanta. If we want autonomy folks we need to accept that we have a bloated federal government and instead of feeding it we must put it on a diet. Send it less money, even if that includes closing a few sparsely used towers.. GA is self funding if we drop a lot of the non safety regulations the FAA has foisted upon us. Do you realize that you can use any soap you wish to wash your car, a police car, a horse, a dog or a fire truck on the airport tarmac but you can't wash a plane! Can you spell EPA run amok!

Todd Shellnutt's picture

The estimated 7.3 billion estimated over the next 10 years is absurd. I personally will not use the system that charges the user fees. This means more VFR flights with no flight plan filed and opened. Safety issues? Of course, but I'm not loosing my job due to the government getting their self into debt and then going into mine to get them out.

Mike's picture

Amen! Well Said!

Maynard McKillen's picture

It's clear too many members of Congress have drunk the Kool-Aid. The corporate oligarchs finally get a poke in the eye, in the form of a proposed User Fee, delivered in person from Americans who see the blatant unearned, undeserved entitlement the fats cats wrangled for themselves by buying enough congressmen.

Status quo is not any kind of level playing field, my friends. Flights by corporate jets in controlled airspace are subsidized by John Q. Taxpayer, for no good reason. The FAA even said so during the Bush Administration. Sorry for the inconvenient truth.

Sorry, too, just can't shed a tear at the thought that an itty-bitty User Fee is going to make corporations throw a tantrum. Time for the boys to grow up and pay the costs of thriving in a regulated free market economy protected by rule-of-law. Your pampered adolescence is coming to an end. Time to grow some shoulders and carry your share like the peasants. Or, because I know you like to posit the existence of socialist bogeymen, let's call them your comrades.

User fees are just a beginning. Many other forms of corporate welfare have to be repealed or nullified by new ways of taxing corporate revenue streams. Let'em throw fits and make threats. Call their bluff. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain. The status quo is unsustainable and unAmerican.

Corporateland reacted predictably, sending in their army of apologists armed with fistfuls of rationalizations to defend corporate largesse. What a load of fatuous whiners.

Class warfare? Class warfare began when Reagan fired the Air Traffic Controllers and began to institutionalize corporate welfare. Yeah. We saw how great that was for the U.S. economy.

Fuller and his ilk in the other alphabet soup aviation “advocacy” lobbies are the spawn of supply-side economics. They don't represent any genuine effort to address the shrinking pilot population or advocate for issues affecting the little guy. Hell, they're part of the problem!

Mike's picture

If you like paying $100 per flight, why don't you pay RIGHT NOW? Why do you need King Obama to tell you? You liberals should pay first! King Obama should $100 per flight on Air Force One, or better yet in 2016 when he falls back into the evil 1%, he can pay $100 per flight on his corporate jet!!!

I think it’s time for Jimmy Hoffa Jr., George Soros, Michael Moore, and other rich liberals to pay their """fair share""" of taxes! (whatever the hell fair share means) And stop garnishing middle class America’s pay checks, to fund King Obama campaign. It’s funny you target corporate America, but you turn a blind eye to your lobbies groups. At least NBAA and other groups like it defend our industry; labor unions pad their pockets with Tax Free money, for their money laundering operation!! And could care less about the "worker".

Corporate welfare is King Obama funding failing companies (Example Solyndra)

matt's picture

Just how is charging a $100 user fee per flight along with the additional government to collect it going to solve the shrinking pilot population???

William's picture

@Maynard. You obviously are one of the kool aid drinking supporters of this administration that believes you can spend, spend, spend and we'll just raise taxes or add fees to cover it. You fail to realize that this fee which you seem to think will apply to just the so called fat cats in their corporate jets is so far off base. There are thousands of operators involved in charter, air ambulance and cargo operations that supply a valuable and in the case of the lifeflights a life saving service. For you to believe that all business jets only fly mega wealthy individuals around is a typical Obama admin answer and shows what type of individual you are especially since you failed to mention anybody but the fat cats.

Jethound's picture

When all luxury items share in the tax then there might be some justification.
How about taxing all the big yachts that sit in all these beautiful marinas.
The reason they won't is so may movie stars and politicians own them.. And of course... Who wants to publish pictures of the President playing golf with the fat cats such as Tiger Woods . Why not put a tax on bicycles that use public roads. Heck I can think of hundreds of ways to tax everything in society and truly discourage folks from going after their dreams. Lets just do away with the tax system and go to a fair tax.

Peter Wilson's picture

It is quite obvious Pres. Obama don`t care about the well being of, preserving, and stimulating jobs in the American Aviation Industry.
He and his partners quest to turn America into a subservient third World Country, is very alarming.

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