GA Airports The Loser In Federal Budget Proposal
EAA Maintains Aviation Trust Fund Income Healthy And The Balance Is Growing; Inappropriate Distribution Is The Problem
February 10, 2006 — The nation's general aviation airports are left out in the cold in the new FAA budget proposal forwarded by the Bush Administration this week, as funding for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) has been chopped by more than 20 percent.
EAA analyzed the budget proposal, finding that the remaining funds are likely to be used for expansion at large metropolitan airports. That would leave critical maintenance and improvement projects at GA airports delayed or canceled.
"Local airport infrastructures are left wanting in this budget proposal," said Doug Macnair, EAA vice president of government relations. "Again the proposed FAA budget takes money specifically designated for airport improvements and other capital expenditures, and uses it to fund general operations, instead of making the hard decisions on the real problem: out-of-control spending."
That AIP cut is a major part of the reduced FAA funding total for Fiscal Year 2007, a total that is down some $600 million from the previous budget. While the general fund contribution for FAA does not decrease under the proposal, the money taken from the Aviation Trust Fund - the funding from the GA fuel tax and airline passenger-ticket taxes supposedly earmarked to build and enhance aviation infrastructure - has increased.
Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta has alluded to the need for aviation user fees in recent statements, demanding the need for a "stable, predictable revenue stream" for FAA through other funding methods. In the aftermath of the budget's release, he cited "general agreement" on a funding method that depends on revenues collected and services provided.
"The FAA services provide benefit to every citizen of the country, whether they fly or not, so the general fund is the best way to equitably fund the operation of the nation's air infrastructure," Macnair said. "There is no 'general agreement' on this point except by those who are pushing for a user-fee system."
"The FAA's funding crisis does not come from a lack of financial resources from aviation users being poured into the Airport and Airways Trust Fund. Contrary to what the FAA has been saying about declining industry funding, the Trust Fund balance is predicted to increase dramatically between now and 2011, to a predicted $15 billion. The FAA shortfall comes from the White House inadequately funding the operation of the world's finest air traffic system in an all-out effort to reduce the burgeoning federal deficit. Instead, the White House budget proposal robs the Airport Improvement Program to pay for the expense of running the air traffic system. And general aviation is the loser."
Macnair added that EAA also has concerns about additional funding earmarked for the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NGATS), which has the potential to impose additional economic and regulatory burdens on aircraft owners. This plan calls for potential new equipment requirements such as Automated Dependent Surveillance (ADS-B), which would provide great benefits such as making weather and air traffic information available in the cockpit.
However, there is a disturbing trend in the NGATS planning toward mandatory installation of these new technologies to use the national airspace system. That would carry a significant cost burden and be a severe detriment to non-electrically supported aircraft and other aircraft not capable of supporting such technologies.
"EAA members are innovators who have always been among the first to develop, embrace and use the latest technology," Macnair said. "But careening headlong into such a program, without considering its ramifications on the recreational aviation community as a whole, could leave many thousands of aircraft owners without access to major parts of the nation's airspace."
EAA will continue to engage with legislators and federal officials to defend its members against measures that would lessen access to flying or add burdensome regulations.