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EAA Pleased With BiPartisan Skepticism And Opposition To User Fee Proposal

 

February 15, 2007 — EAA was heartened to hear broad skepticism and bipartisan opposition to the Bush Administration?s FY2008 budget proposal for funding the FAA during the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation hearing on Wednesday afternoon. The proposal, presented by FAA Administrator Marion Blakey, implements user fees and imposes a drastic increase in general aviation fuel taxes to fund the nation?s air traffic control system and capital improvement programs.

?We?re extremely pleased that several members of the aviation subcommittee share our opposition to the administration?s proposed new funding scheme,? said EAA?s Earl Lawrence, vice president of government and regulatory affairs. ?They realize, as do EAA and the other GA organizations, that this proposal would be incredibly harmful to our nation?s aviation infrastructure. We?ll continue to stand united to keep aviation affordable, less complex, and more accessible for all.?

Subcommittee Chairman Jerry F. Costello (D-Ill.) questioned the Administration would put forth a plan that actually results in less revenue.

?While FAA has cited the need to finance a major new air traffic control modernization initiative as a reason for reforming the current tax structure, the Administration?s data indicates that in FY 2008, user fees and excise taxes under the new proposal would hypothetically yield approximately $600 million less in FY2008 than maintaining the current tax structure and over $900 million less from FY2009 to FY2012,? Costello said. ?I question the wisdom of moving to a new financing system that will not generate as much revenue as the current tax structure when we clearly need to make critical investments now to ensure that our nation?s air traffic control infrastructure is robust for the future.?

Rep. Robin Hayes (R-NC) called the 300 percent tax hike on GA fuels (from 21 to 70 cents per gallon) ?deadly,? and felt there was ?no way users fees are fair, equitable, and are going to work.?

Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa) called the proposal an ?unfair, unwise,? approach. ?We do not have to do it. Can?t we just sit together and work this out??

His Michigan colleague from across the aisle, Vern Ehlers (EAA 685118), went a step further, pronouncing the proposal ?Dead on Arrival.? He later clarified his statement by extending an olive branch to the Administrator, saying, ?I don?t mean to say we can?t get this thing done, but this is so important that we need to sit down together and work out long-range solutions.?

Much concern was expressed about the Administration?s decreased level of funding for the Airport Improvement Program and its impact on small airports. The proposal cuts entitlement funds to airports with fewer than 10 based aircraft that previously received $150,000.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), who agreed with Ehler?s comments but stopped short of pronouncing it DOA, addressed Blakey?s assertion that the Airport and Airway Trust Fund was at historically low levels, reminding her that the Congress mandated the FAA to spend the trust fund down when it was at $11.7 billion. ?We could just as easily keep the current system and allow it to grow back again. Why go through the battle to reallocate costs for less money?? DiFazio also noted the proposed 300 percent fuel tax hike (56.4 cents for ATC, 13.6 cents for the trust fund) would ?depress GA activity and at best result in lower revenue.?

Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO), EAA 619761 and an annual AirVenture attendee, is terribly disturbed by this proposal. ?I don?t even know where to start,? he said. ?I understand that you come in on opposite sides and work toward the middle, but even the middle is unacceptable. I don?t see anything but bad news with this.?

Graves added that he was ?floored? by the 70-cent gas tax, expecting perhaps a 5- or 10-cent increase. ?I?m going to be pelted by pilots back home. What are pilots getting from this tax increase when they don?t even use the system? It really, really disturbs me.?

Graves asked about the 25 FAA activities that will incur fees under the new budget since only 12 are defined in the proposal. Blakey said they would work with the stakeholders to set the fees, so we really don?t know what those other 13 items are, nor do we know what the price will be.

Graves replied, ?We don?t know what it costs, we don?t know what it is, what we?re paying for, so why are we going to start charging for it?? He also pointed out that the whole ATC system is ostensibly being overhauled to deal with congestion, ?but isn?t congestion an airport function? Runways and demands at specific airports. ATC overhaul will not improve overcapacity at specific airports and insufficient runways.

?The skies will be safer because nobody can fly anymore.?

Learn more about the Administration?s ill-conceived user fee proposal and what you can do to help defeat by visiting EAA?s special web section, "General Aviation United Against User Fees".

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