By Adrian Schofield
FAA’s fiscal 2011 budget request signals that the Obama administration has dropped its plans to introduce aviation user fees, at least for now.
The budget proposal, released today, had no reference to funding the aviation system through user fees. This was a notable omission, as the FY2010 budget released last year included footnotes referring to a new user-fee approach. The Transportation Dept. never followed up with a detailed proposal, but the footnotes alone were enough to spark protests from user-fee opponents such as general aviation groups.
House Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Costello (D-Ill.) welcomed the dropping of the user-fee language. “I commend the President and Transportation Secretary [Ray] LaHood for not rehashing this issue – no aviation user fees in the budget is a big step forward,” Costello said. “The House has demonstrated in no uncertain terms that user fees are unacceptable.” Costello and more than 100 other lawmakers wrote to the White House last October calling for it to not include a user fee proposal in the budget.
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, meanwhile, said while it is “gratified that the Obama administration has heeded the GA community’s concerns, we remain vigilant to ensure the user fee idea remains on hold.”
The White House is recommending a total of $16.47 billion in funding for FAA in FY2011, a slight increase from the $15.99 billion enacted by Congress for FY2010. The bulk of the increase comes in the operations line, which receives $9.79 billion versus the $9.35 billion in FY2010. Facilities and equipment funding will increase from $2.94 billion in FY2010 to $2.97 billion in FY2011. Airports will receive $3.5 billion in grants, the same as in FY2010. The research and development budget is essentially unchanged at $190 million.
DOT said the portion of the budget supporting the NextGen modernization plan has increased by 32% to $1.1 billion. The budget includes $153 million for air-to-ground data communications, an increase of $106 million over FY2010. Within the operations budget, $14 million is earmarked to fund 82 additional positions to develop flight standards and provide increased aircraft certification services.
In the broader DOT budget, $182 million is proposed for the essential air service (EAS) program, $18 million less than FY2010. The small community air service development program sees its funding cut entirely – although Congress has traditionally restored this funding in previous budgets.
Source: AVIATION WEEK