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No User Fees in 2011 Budget

All general aviation heaved a collective sigh of relief when President Obama released his budget for fiscal year 2011 and failed to include user fees. Payments to the aviation trust fund will continue to be through fuel taxes.

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, which opposed user fees, were quick to also commend the President. U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL), chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee, said he welcomed the news that the budget did not include user fees. He had strongly said the present fuel tax collection was proven and an efficient way to collect funds for the aviation system. “I commend the President and Secretary LaHood for not rehashing this issue,” he said, calling the no user fee plan “a big step forward." He and Aviation Subcommittee Ranking member Thomas Petri (R-WI) had sent a letter to the President last October signed by 118 House members urging him to not put user fees in the budget. The initiative was endorsed by Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN), chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

General aviation alphabet organizations immediately praised the decision to keep the status quo, saying the President evidently heard the voices of general aviation and many members of the Congress. National Business Aviation Association President and CEO Ed Bolen commented that not including user fees “shows the tremendous progress we have made over the past year.” The President’s budget proposal released a year ago contained the provision that starting in 2011 the President would ask for replacing excise taxes with user fees.

William Condon, president of I Fly America, said "Avoiding the struggle over user fees for another year is a welcome decision and one which in the long run will not only permit general aviation to continue growth but will also eliminate the need for establishing a new, complex structure for collecting complicated charges”. Condon cautioned, however, that all general aviation interests must stay alert to any future efforts to add unnecessary restrictions and fees.

The decision not to propose user fees was “a common sense decision” said Pete Bunce, president and CEO of General Aviation Manufacturers Association.

James Coyne, president of National Air Transportation Association, said the general aviation community has worked diligently over the past few years to defeat proposals to place user fees and he thanked the Congress for continued support in opposition. He added that while NATA is pleased user fees are omitted from the 2011 budget, the industry must remain vigilant to assure that any future user fee proposals are unsuccessful.

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