Don't Ground Business Fliers With Undue Taxes Air Traffic Control Modernization Needed, but Spread Costs Fairly
July 30, 2009
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    Bryan Currie says he’s not opposed to helping pay for upgraded aircraft navigation systems the nation needs to keep the skies safe. But he, like many small business owners who rely on personal aircraft, isn’t interested in taking on more of the costs to give the major airlines a tax break.

    Yet that’s what the Troy businessman says will happen if bills before Congress are passed. He has a point.

    At issue is the reauthorization of the funding system for the nation’s aviation system, which pays for everything from air traffic controller salaries to the technology they use to track and assist airplanes. It is renewed every 10 years.

    Concern has risen this year from small business owners and larger companies that use private aircraft because bills introduced in the U.S. House and Senate would shift costs on to them while giving big airlines a tax break.

    Among the provisions in question are a 4-cent fuel tax cut for commercial airlines to go along with the doubling of fuel taxes for small airplanes and the imposition of a $25 user fee for all but the smallest aircraft.

    Major airlines say they use about 70 percent of the Federal Aviation Administration’s resources, yet pay 94 percent of the costs. General aviation fliers say they pay 8.6 percent of the costs, which is in line with FAA estimates of their use of the system.

    “We believe we’re paying adequately under the current system but we’re willing to pay more for modernization,” says Ed Bolen, president of the National Business Aviation Association Inc. “The best way to do that is through fuel taxes only.”

    Bolen says his organization supports increases of up to 40 percent in those taxes because it’s the best way to spread the costs evenly. The mechanism to collect the tax is in place and those who fly the most will pay proportionately.

    That makes sense. But it should be noted that as the number of hours being flown increases with the number of private planes also increasing, so should the responsibility for paying for FAA resources.

    The current system expires in September, so there’s time to fix the legislation to treat all users fairly. That’s best achieved by modifying the existing system, not adding on universal fees that only ensure an added layer of government intervention.

    Source: DETROIT NEWS
    Date: 2007-07-02