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House Passes FAA Reauthorization Bill Without User Fees

General aviation groups generally applauded the FAA reauthorization bill introduced in the House of Representatives because it did not have the user fee charge that is included in the Senate's bill, but there is a long way to go before a final version of the legislation will come to pass and several issues cloud that route.

Introducing the legislation, Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn), chair of the Committee of Transportation and Infrastructure, declared that because of the projected growth of the aviation trust fund, he 'does not believe radical reform financing is necessary.'  However, there are changes in fuel taxes and fees for certain FAA services such as aircraft registration, changing N numbers and similar programs.

Under the House bill, general aviation fuel tax would go from 19.3 cents a gallon to 24.1 cents and jet fuel from 21.8 cents to 30.7 cents.  Oberstar states this increase is because of inflation.  The Senate bill calls for a $25 charge for aircraft operating above 12,000 feet, plus higher jet fuel taxes.  The House version prohibits using altitude as a basis of charge. 

The House bill authorizes $13 billion for FAA facilities and equipment, more than a $1 billion more than the administration asked for. This would fund improvements in the traffic control system commonly called 'NextGen.'

Spokespersons for the major general aviation groups were quick to praise the House bill and thank the Representatives on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee who crafted it. They all, however, cautioned that the battle against user fees is not over.  The House bill must pass the House Ways and Means Committee, then the full House and go to conference with the Senate.

Another stumbling block could be an amendment in the bill that would reopen the 1998 contract with the National Air Traffic Controllers. NATC and the FAA have been at odds over this for years.  Rep. John Mica (R-FL) termed the amendment a 'poison pill'. He said 'reopening this provision will kill our chances of this measure become law.'   He said turning back the clock on the air traffic controllers' contract and reinstating terms of the 1998 contract, including back pay, 'would cost nearly $400 million in 2007 and 2008.' If the measure regarding controllers is included in the bill, Mica said he has every indication the President would veto it and the House would sustain the veto.

Association groups are continuing to urge their members to keep the pressure on their members of Congress.

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