A Redress of Grievances

A petition on the White House website is asking the Obama Administration to abandon its misguided, $100-per-flight user-fee proposal. Here's why you need to sign it.

The First Amendment guarantees our right to petition our government. For generations, Americans have used this right to organize around issues they care about, from ending slavery, to guaranteeing a woman's right to vote, to furthering the civil rights movement. Now, with the rise of the Internet, any citizen can create an online petition in minutes, post it to the official whitehouse.gov website and, if enough people agree with a particular point of view, have their collective voices heard.

That's exactly what's happening right now with an online petition asking the Obama Administration to "take aviation user fees off the table" in the ongoing discussion about reducing the nation's debt. My signature was No. 363. The number has grown considerably since then, and it's been great to watch it rise.

If any petition posted on the White House website garners 5,000 or more signatures within 30 days, senior White House officials promise to at least take the matter into consideration. The aviation petition will remain active through October 23.

The current user-fee uproar is over a White House plan to start charging turbine-powered airplanes operating in the IFR system a fee of $100 per flight. This is a bad idea that, if adopted, could easily lead to additional user fees for more pilots in the future.

Who knows if the online user-fee petition will have any real impact in stopping the Obama Administration from enacting its proposal, but I applaud the White House for creating this online tool in the first place. It’s a win for Democracy. Coupled with outspoken opposition by dozens of aviation groups and spurred by the influence of members of the House and Senate who also belong to the General Aviation Coalition, my hope is the petition will be a win for aviation, too.

Why are aviation user fees such a bad idea? For one, pilots and aircraft operators already pay for ATC services through fuel taxes and, in the case of the airlines, a passenger ticket tax. A $100 flat fee is inherently unfair because it puts the same cost burden on the operator of a Gulfstream flying from New York to Los Angeles as a Malibu owner on a trip from Tuscaloosa to Tallahassee. It’s also a bad idea because it creates a new layer of bureaucracy that must be managed and paid for at a time when most people agree we should be simplifying the tax code.

If the White House really thought the idea was such a great one, staffers would have at least told DOT Secretary Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt about it before making the details public. Both men would have told the White House that the most fair and efficient way to generate additional revenue is by raising taxes on jet fuel.

I urge everybody reading this who cares about the future of aviation in this country to lend their voice to the cause. This is an issue worth fighting for, and that means all of us must become engaged and involved in ending this fee proposal before it's too late.