“No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session.” So wrote 19th century lawyer and politician Gideon J. Tucker, whose cynicism toward Congress might fit right in today.
As evidence, Washington’s ongoing budget battles have resulted in some 4,000 furloughed employees at the FAA—resulting in a sharply reduced agency presence at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2011—while breathing fresh life into what most observers believed was a settled argument: user fees for general aviation.
Most recently, the idea of levying user fees on general aviation has been placed “on the table” during Washington’s seemingly endless debt-ceiling negotiations.
Although few specifics are available regarding how new user fees on general aviation would be structured or implemented, per-flight charges ranging from $25 to $100 have been discussed in the past. Additionally, once the bureaucracy necessary to impose and collect the fees is in place at the federal level, expansion of their rates and scope likely would follow.
Last week, EAA reacted strongly to the idea, with President/CEO Rod Hightower signing a joint letter of opposition to Congress with other aviation organizations.
Along with calling GA user fees a “resoundingly discredited approach to raising revenues,” the letter states, “Over the past five years, both chambers of Congress have carefully considered new aviation user fees and overwhelmingly rejected them. We see no reason to override the will of committee and other congressional policymakers in the context of debt ceiling negotiations.”
The opposition to user fees among EAA and other organizations stems from the fact general aviation already pays its fair share toward aviation infrastructure through federal fuel taxes, 19.4 cents per gallon for aviation gasoline and 21.9 cents a gallon for jet fuel. Although these taxes have lapsed to lower rates—4.4 cents/gallon—in the aftermath of Congress’s failure last week to extend the FAA’s authorization, pending legislation actually includes slight increases in the per-gallon levies.
The vast majority of revenues raised from these two taxes on general aviation fuel are dedicated to airport, facility, and technology improvements via the federal Airport and Airways Trust Fund. Any user fees on general aviation operations enacted likely would be used to defray the FAA’s administrative expenses and not to improve or expand airports and other facilities.
In addition to working closely with concerned members of Congress, EAA is asking association members and AirVenture attendees to contact their U.S. senators and representatives to express their concern over the possibility of new user fees levied against general aviation.
In particular, EAA is urging members to clearly remind their elected officials of the efficiency and success of the existing excise tax system, one that has been in place for decades—and which isn’t broken.
As the association reminded members in a recent press release, “debt ceiling deliberations are ongoing and the deadline is looming for a resolution, so fast action is needed to have an impact on the discussions and debate.”