Tackles User Fee Proposal
Spence, Aviation Writer and IFA Member
Congress is being pressured
from both sides of the user fee issue while it is working to reauthorize the
Federal Administration, which must be completed by September 30, or extended by
a temporary reauthorization. User fees have been endorsed by many scheduled
airlines for several decades. What makes this time different is that all
airlines are on board and the administration is pushing the idea through its
2008 fiscal budget.
user fee proposal calls for elimination of the domestic airline ticket tax, the
international arrival and departure tax, the frequent flyer tax, and the cargo
shipment tax. In their place jet fuel for the airlines would increase from its
present 4.3 cents per gallon to 13.6 cents per gallon; tax on jet fuel used by
general aviation would jump from 21.8 cents per gallon to 70 cents per gallon.
Tax on aviation gasoline for general aviation would jump from 19.3 cents per
gallon to 70 cents per gallon. A fee, to be set by the FAA, would be charged to
all but general aviation piston airplanes for use of the air traffic control
system. Fees would be charged for takeoffs and landings at some 200 airports.
The FAA could also charge a fee for use of Class B airspace around any airport
it might consider congested. Fees would also be charged for issuance of
certificates: issuing or replacing an airman's certificate $50; registering an
aircraft $130; issuing medical certificate $42; providing legal title opinions
houses of Congress have held their first hearings on the subject. FAA
Administrator Marion Blakey stands firm on the position that the fee structure
would be more fair to airline passengers and that the agency needs additional
money to complete the next generation of air traffic control. Opponents continue
to stress that the proposed system would result in
income ranging from $600 million in the first year to $900 million three years
later. They also
point out that their uses are different.
general aviation community is together on the opposition and is joined and
supported by others. The air cargo group points out that their use of the ATC is
mostly at night and off-peak times, thus not causing the same congestion as do
the air carriers who bunch their flights at hub airports. State aviation
officials declare their opposition to 'any user fees' on general aviation.
members of Congress have also expressed their dislike for the user fee system.
One of the most vocal has been Sen. James Inhofe (R-Ok), a long-time pilot.
Although not on the committee considering the issue, he appeared before his
colleagues urging them to 'take the idea of user fees off the table.' Both the
chairperson and ranking minority member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and
Transportation Committee have expressed their doubts.
on the House side, members are even more outspoken questioning the wisdom of
moving away from the present tax system to a user fee plan. Rep. James Oberstar
(D-MN), chair of the full Transportation and Infrastructure Committee questions
'the wisdom of giving the FAA full authority to link its proposed new user fees
to its costs.'
Jerry Costello (D-IL), who chairs the subcommittee first considering the issue,
declares 'grave reservations' about the plan.
of the various airline, general aviation, travel groups, and others caught up in
the conflict are appearing before the various committees. Strong lobbying is
also the rule of the day by both sides.
fees are not taxes; therefore do not have to be approved by the Congress. What
that body can do, however, is include language in the reauthorization bill
prohibiting the FAA from establishing them.
effort by the airlines has been going on for several decades. If it is beaten
back again, there is no question that it will be brought up again and the
airlines will seek other ways to give them priority in the air traffic control
system and at major airports.
To make your
opinions known to members of Congress, contact the Senators from your state and
the Representative from your district. Since 9-11, all mail going into the
Capitol Building is inspected, which means letters often are delayed for long
periods before being delivered. To get your message heard quickly, send it by
e-mail. If you are not certain of the names or e-mail addresses, check the web
sites. For the Senate, go to
http://www.senate.gov/, check the word 'senators' at the top left. Then
choose your state. For your Representative, go to
http://www.house.gov/, click 'find your Representative.'