FAA Funding Bill Becomes Law; User Fees Lurk

Aviation International News » March 2012
March 3, 2012, 12:20 AM

When President Obama signed the four-year FAA reauthorization bill on February 14, he put an end to more than four years of foot-dragging and often contentious debate, along with a record 23 short-term extensions of the FAA’s operating authorization and ability to levy and collect aviation excise taxes, since the last four-year reauthorization expired in the fall of 2007.

The legislation authorizes $63.3 billion for FAA programs through 2015, while retaining–at current levels–fuel taxes as the means for general aviation to pay for its use of the aviation system. The new bill contains no new user fees, but that does not mean that GA is out of the woods for those four years.

The Obama Administration nevertheless has renewed its call for a $100 user fee for turbine flights in “controlled” airspace. While members of Congress are already declaring the proposal “dead on arrival,” it was included in the White House’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget of $3.8 trillion, released February 9.

During a two-week gap in short-term extensions last summer, the FAA was legally unable to collect excise taxes. It ended up losing about $300 million in revenue, which forced it to furlough about 4,000 “non-essential” employees and shutter hundreds of airport construction projects.

Fears of Snowballing Fees

Although only Congress has the power to levy taxes, the $100-per-flight user fee has general aviation organizations and businesses concerned. “Proposals from the White House are serious business, particularly if–like the user-fee plan and the proposal to change aircraft depreciation in the President’s annual budget–they are designed to raise revenue,” said NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen. “But White House proposals cannot become law unless they are approved by Congress.”

AOPA president Craig Fuller said that while the Administration’s budget document exempts piston, military and other governmental aircraft, along with air ambulances, aircraft operating outside “controlled airspace” and Canada-to-Canada flights, past experience has shown that such exemptions are likely to disappear once user fees are in place.

“Once the collection system is imposed, new fees and fee increases bypass the congressional approval process that currently keeps excise taxes in check,” Fuller said. “Pay at the pump has worked since the dawn of powered flight, and it still works.”

For once, the nation’s airlines are standing with GA in opposing the $100 levy. Airlines for America, which represents the airlines, accused the Obama Administration of offsetting the budget deficit on the backs of airline customers. In addition to the $100-per-flight fee, the White House proposal would triple the airline security tax to $7.50 for each one-way trip over the next five years.

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Robert Krebs
on March 6, 2012 - 3:08pm

I am not surprised at almost anything this pesident has come up with. It occurs to me that he doesn't know he doesn't know. General aviation is the back bone of many communities in the USA. What else can he try to ruin? What other freedom can he attack? Another person who has never met a payroll or held down a real job. Have you had enough yet? I am 76 and I still fly two airplanes, this guy has to go!!!

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G.L. Meyer
on March 6, 2012 - 4:05pm

Do not worry. Even though pay at the pump works perfectly the goverment will, after tacking on a user fee still allow you , in fact demand, that you 'pay at the pump'.

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jeff daugherty
on March 6, 2012 - 4:34pm

I'd like to know how much general aviation fuel tax is collected in a year?

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Chad Trautvetter
on March 6, 2012 - 4:55pm

Jeff,

Here is a link to the FAA’s Airport Trust Fund fact sheet, which includes a pie chart of trust fund tax revenues on page 6 (look for non-commercial aviation fuel): http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/apl/aatf/media/AATF%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf

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L. Leon Kay
on March 6, 2012 - 11:59pm

We already pay a user fee through GAS TAX enough double tax is enough. The time is now to say ENOUGH no more double tax. The tax that we have has worked since the beginning of aviation. We in aviation do not need a to new European style tax that drives people from learning to fly. We already have to few people to fill the pilot positions.

We need encourage young people by decreasing the cost of flying rather than increasing it.

NO MORE FEES OR TAXES haven't they already hurt it enough!!!!!!!!!
Leon Kay

No Avatar
Dale Roark
on March 18, 2012 - 9:11pm

I don't see how people can afford to fly anymore, When jet fuel went over $2.00 I sold my lear, Now fuel for my barron is $6.00+ this is nuts. How much more can the government tax airplane owners? Why are we paying $63,300,000,000.00 to some buerocrat to stick pilots/airplane owners in the eye? Abolish the FAA in Fact Abolish the DOT!

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