By Lynn Arave
Deseret Morning News
Published: September 14, 2007
Some of Utah’s small airports and the state’s agriculture industry are speaking out against a proposed new user fee at airports and a 125 percent increase in the federal turbine fuel tax.
During a telephone conference call Thursday morning organized by the Alliance for Aviation Across America, many reservations were expressed about the Aviation Investment and Modernization Act (S-1300).
The proposal would require a new $25 per-flight user fee to all general aviation. The fuel tax for turbine operators would also rise from 21 cents a gallon to 49 cents.
The current airport tax structure expires Sept. 30 and Congress is expected to address the proposed plan for airports next week.
“Our airport is vital to our economic well being,” Stephen C. Thompson, a Logan City Councilman, said of the Logan Airport.
He believes the proposed new airport taxes will seriously impact businesses in the Cache Valley, since they rely on it.
Furthermore, Thompson said, Utah State University has a top-rated flight school and that too would suffer.
“This fuel tax would create a tremendous hardship on students,” he said.
St. George also has concerns with the possible effects on its airport.
Mayor Daniel D. McArthur said this tax will hurt business at the airport, as well as the small businesses that use it. St. George is also hoping to build a new airport.
However, contacted separately by the Deseret Morning News, the Ogden-Hinckley Airport welcomes the new taxes.
“We think it’s fantastic,” said Ed Rich, manager of Ogden’s airport. “The majority of fees will go to keep our airports up.”
He said the state aeronautics agency would receive the money from the new fees and then disperse them to Utah airports.
Why is the Ogden airport favoring the proposal? It is, at least partially, because Ogden alone funds the airport and yet 50 percent of its usage is from Weber County residents, while Weber County doesn’t directly financially support the airport.
The additional funding to the Ogden airport is more advantageous than the drawbacks to the fee increases.
Even Utah agriculture would be affected by the proposed new airport fees.
For example, crop dusting is a vital component to successful Utah farms. Arthur Douglas, president of the Utah Farmers Union, said if crop dusters have to pay extra taxes, it will hurt the farm industry at a very vulnerable time, when it won’t be able to pass such extra fees onto others – it will have to absorb them at a loss.
“It’s an unnecessary tax,” he said.
Former Utah Sen. Jake Garn also believes the proposed airport taxes would be unfair.
Speaking on the conference call, he said that while America’s gasoline taxes fairly spread the burden among all users of the highways, these proposed airport taxes don’t spread out the burden and will hurt small plane operators.
The Provo Municipal Airport could not be reached for comment on the fee proposals.
The members of the Alliance for Aviation Across America strongly support modernization of America’s aviation system. However, the group believes the fees have the potential to negatively impact small and midsize businesses across the country.
The alliance believes the per-flight user fee is very regressive, applying equally to a jumbo jetliner flying out of JFK with 300 people aboard and a turboprop aircraft flying in controlled airspace from a small town with only five people aboard.
The alliance also believes the proposal would require a large and expensive bureaucracy of billing agents and collection agents, Thus, the $25 per-flight fee represents a huge hidden cost to operators that dramatically exceeds the amount of the fee itself.
For more information, go to the Web site: www.AviationAcrossAmerica.org
• The taxes will favor big airports and commercial airlines, saving them money.
• The new taxes will cost small plane users more money, and thus the small businesses who rely on them will pay more.
Source: DESERET MORNING NEWS