New Fees Are No Answer: Current FAA Financing System Can Accommodate Growth in Air Travel
July 29, 2009
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  • By James Oberstar and Jerry Costello

    February 13, 2008

    USA TODAY is obviously buying the Bush administration’s argument that its proposed user-fee system for funding aviation programs is the key to air traffic control modernization and relieving congestion in the air.

    The administration cites the need to pay for the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) as its rationale for aggressively promoting a radical new tax and financing structure for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). But our run of the numbers indicates otherwise. From fiscal 2010 to fiscal 2013, the administration’s aviation user fee proposal would actually bring in $2.1 billion less than the amount of receipts that would be collected under the existing aviation excise tax structure.

    Furthermore, the administration’s budget requests do not match its rhetoric. In 2003, the FAA requested approximately $3 billion per year for its capital program. Yet for fiscal years 2005 through 2008, the administration requested roughly $2.5 billion per year for its capital program. For next year, it slightly increased the request to $2.72 billion, a step in the right direction, but not enough to transform the air traffic control system.

    The administration’s revenue proposal is an ideology-driven solution in search of a problem. The current tax and financing system has accommodated the enormous growth of American aviation over the past 30 years, and it can continue to do so.

    Five months ago, the House passed a comprehensive, viable FAA reauthorization bill that maintains the current revenue structure and increases the funds for air traffic modernization and airport improvements. We have been waiting for the Senate to act on its own bill and join us in a conference committee to work out our differences.

    Ultimately, the problem with modernizing our aviation infrastructure is not a lack of money, but a lack of leadership at FAA. To divert attention from this reality, the administration is trying to blame general aviation, the House or air traffic controllers for the lack of progress.

    That’s grossly inaccurate and does nothing to help us move this issue forward.

    James Oberstar, D-Minn., chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Jerry Costello, D-Ill., chairs its Aviation Subcommittee.

    Source: USA TODAY
    Date: 2009-02-13