September 30, 2011
FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Huerta may have given a glimpse on Thursday of how the agency and the Obama Administration will promote the GA user fee concept in the coming weeks.
While outlining the NextGen system status during a speech to the NextGen Advisory Committee in Washington, D.C., Huerta also talked about the ongoing struggle for FAA funding. The agency is operating on its 22nd consecutive short-term reauthorization, which will carry it through early 2012. The lack of a full FAA reauthorization bill has stymied numerous efforts by the agency for infrastructure improvements.
“The FAA needs longer-term funding to better plan improvements that will help us to maintain our system as the largest and safest aviation system in the world,” Huerta said.
He then talked about funding proposed in President Obama’s American Jobs Act, including the $100 per-flight surcharge, which would be a GA user fee for a substantial number of flights. The words indicated the position the administration and agency seem to be taking on the issue.
“Approximately $11 billion in revenue would be generated over a 10-year period. Most general aviation aircraft are exempt from paying this user fee – more than 80 percent would not have to pay it,” Huerta said. “While I understand there is opposition to this proposal, these are difficult times and the deficit is a serious problem. We are all being asked to do our part.”
EAA and other GA organizations have maintained that general aviation already pays its fair share through the aviation fuel tax, which is extremely efficient to collect and was even proposed to increase in the FAA reauthorization bill to help pay for the NextGen system. That bill has yet to be passed by Congress.
“We have clearly stated our opposition to GA user fees for a variety of reasons, including the creation of a new bureaucracy to collect any fees, the lost revenue to administering the collection process, and the inevitable ‘mission creep’ of ever increasing and expanding government taxes and fees,” said Doug Macnair, EAA’s vice president of government relations. “Congress has also repeatedly stated it has no interest in a GA user fee system. It’s easy to say now that most GA aircraft would not be subject to the surcharge, but everyone knows how quickly things change when there’s an opportunity to assess additional fees and taxes.”
Interestingly, Huerta’s statements come in the same week that thousands of aviators signed an online petition to the White House that says GA user fees should “come off the table.” The Obama Administration has pledged a full review of any citizen petition that surpasses 5,000 signatures – a figure that was passed in less than four days – but EAA urges all general aviation pilots to sign the petition. When it comes to petitioning government, we need everyone to show their opposition to user fees.