Key House Members Work Against User Fees
October 16, 2009
  • Share
  • As the Office of Management and Budget begins to form its plans for the fiscal 2011 budget, two key House members have begun a lobbying effort against potential aviation user fee proposals for fiscal 2011.

    House aviation subcommittee chairman Jerry Costello (D-Ill.) and ranking Republican Thomas Petri (R-Wis.) circulated a letter within the House asking President Obama to keep potential general aviation user fees out of the fiscal 2011 budget. Both lawmakers offered their support instead to continuation of the aviation excise taxes.

    “The current system of aviation excise taxes has proven to be a stable and efficient source of funding for our aviation system,” the letter stated, adding, “We believe that user fees will place an undue administrative burden, and associated costs, on system users – particularly small businesses and general aviation users.”

    The letter noted efforts of past administrations to pursue user fees. “The House has opposed this approach in legislation to reauthorize the FAA in both the 110th and 111th Congresses. Therefore, proposing user fees to finance the FAA would be a nonstarter in the House and a major distraction from the number one priority, the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen),” the letter said.

    Costello and Petri were hoping to collect signatures on the letter before sending it to Obama. “We want to make it clear that a user fee proposal will not be well received in the House,” Costello said.

    Industry groups, meanwhile, have appealed to lawmakers to pass a long-term FAA reauthorization bill as soon as possible.

    More than 30 industry groups and unions – including most general aviation groups – recently signed a letter to senators stressing “the importance of passing a comprehensive, multiyear reauthorization.” The FAA’s authorization has been extended numerous times over the past two years, and this “highlights how critically overdue this important legislation has become,” the groups said.

    While associations have individually lobbied for passage of the reauthorization bill, the letter marks the most significant joint appeal. “The aviation community stands united in its recognition of the importance of enacting multiyear FAA reauthorization legislation,” the letter said.

    The House has passed its version of the reauthorization bill, but the Senate has yet to follow. Despite a congested calendar, a senior Senate staffer believes there is still a very good chance that the FAA reauthorization bill can be finished this year.

    Senate leaders recognize that the bill should be passed before year’s end, a staff member from the Senate aviation subcommittee said at the Air Traffic Control Association’s annual conference last week. The staffer said the Senate would probably need to have its bill approved by November to leave enough time for a House/Senate conference.

    The Commerce Committee has approved the bulk of the bill, but the Finance Committee has to contribute its proposals on tax changes. Although the Finance Committee is heavily involved in the health care debate, there is “tremendous pressure” on the committee – from lobbyists and Senate leadership – to finish its work on the FAA bill this month, the staffer said.

    Date: 2009-10-12