'Letter Groups' Praise President's Decision To Squelch Aviation User Fees
February 5, 2010
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  • Additional Funds Included For Safety Inspectors

    AOPA, NBAA, and GAMA all reacted to the Monday release of President Obama’s budget proposal, saying Obama’s decision to drop aviation user fees from the FY2011 federal budget would benefit the industry.

    “When it comes to the long-standing battle over user fees, it appears that today, we have reached an important and welcome milestone,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. (right) “The fact that user fees are not part of the President’s 2011 budget proposal shows the tremendous progress we have made over the past year.”

    Bolen noted that the Obama Administration’s previous budget proposal, which was introduced last February, contained an important provision that read, “Starting in 2011, the Budget proposes to replace some aviation excise taxes with direct user charges.” The President’s new budget proposal does not contain similar language.

    “The proposal introduced by the White House today stands in clear contrast to language we saw last year,” Bolen continued. “Our community, which has been so energized and mobilized by the user fee threat, should be heartened by this news.

    “Like the Administration, the general aviation community supports full funding for the FAA and modernization of the nation’s aviation system,” Bolen said. “But our industry has been united in opposing calls for user fees, which require a large bureaucracy to manage, and would impose a hidden administrative burden on the many small and mid-size businesses that rely on an airplane to succeed.

    “Instead adopting foreign-style user fees, NBAA and its Members have been very aggressive in promoting the wisdom of building upon the stable, reliable and efficient fuel tax mechanism for general aviation to help fund aviation system modernization,” Bolen said. He noted that with fuel taxes, users pay the tax at the pump, the government easily collects the revenue, and the system serves as an effective proxy for the cost airplanes impose on the system. “On top of all that, the fuel tax is environmentally friendly, because it encourages the development of cleaner, quieter and more efficient engines,” Bolen added.

    “We commend the Administration for its focus on aviation modernization, and we look forward to working with officials to expedite the transformation to the Next Generation Air Traffic Control System,” Bolen said.

    Despite the removal of user fees from the Administration’s FY2011 budget, Bolen said that ongoing vigilance and grassroots mobilization by NBAA’s Members would be needed to ensure that Washington policymakers continue to understand the industry’s support for helping to fund aviation modernization through fuel taxes.

    “Whether or not this is an indication of a permanent policy shift on user fees, or a one-time development remains to be determined,” Bolen said. “What we do know for certain is that our industry must continue to make its voice heard on this and other issues.”

    GAMA President Pete Bunce (right) expressed similar sentiments. “We support the Administration’s common-sense decision not to propose user fees,” said Bunce. “A burdensome user fee system faced widespread opposition in Congress and universal opposition from general aviation. GAMA stands ready to work with both the Administration and Congress to pass an FAA reauthorization bill that will help the agency move forward on air traffic control modernization and other important national priorities.”

    GAMA commends Chairman Jerry Costello (D-IL) and Ranking Member Tom Petri (R-WI) of the House Subcommittee on Aviation for sending a letter opposing user fees to the Administration last fall, an initiative that was endorsed by more than 100 members including Chairman of the House Transportation Committee Jim Oberstar (D-MN).

    GAMA also praises the Administration for including an extension of bonus depreciation for GA aircraft sales and an increase in funding for additional FAA safety inspectors. Bonus depreciation is an important tax incentive that has a proven track record of helping manufacturers sell aircraft under tough economic conditions. The additional funding for safety inspectors will help the agency keep pace with certification requests and ensure that new technologies and products which promote safety, efficiency, and modernization are not delayed.

    Bunce added, “It is significant that the Administration is on the record supporting bonus depreciation. It is GA manufacturers’ top tax related request this year and we thank the president for including it in his budget and also for recognizing that an adequate safety inspector workforce will help get projects certified and into the market during 2010.”

    AOPA President Craig Fuller (right) says he is “gratified” that President Obama’s 2011 budget proposal does not include user fees for GA.

    “For the past year, AOPA and the general aviation community have made it clear that user fees are not the best way to fund the nation’s aviation system,” Fuller said in a prepared statement released Monday. “That message was repeated loud-and-clear by aviation supporters in the House and Senate, including more than 100 members of Congress who declared that user fees would be a ‘non-starter.’ Today’s budget proposal makes it evident that our voices were heard. Someone in the Obama Administration decided to hit “pause” when they came to the aviation user fee option.”

    “The decision not to include user fees in the 2011 budget is encouraging, and it allows all of us in the aviation community to focus on important priorities like air traffic control modernization, keeping airports open, and growing the pilot population. We are especially focused on any and all actions that will encourage the return to growth in the general aviation sector.”

    “While we are gratified that the Obama Administration has heeded the concerns of the general aviation community, we remain vigilant to ensure the user fee idea remains on hold,” Fuller concluded. “We will continue to promote an agenda that supports general aviation today and into the future, while increasing our efforts show opinion leaders and policy makers the value that general aviation delivers to all Americans.”

    Source: AERO NEWS
    Date: 2010-02-02