No User Fees and Increased Funding for Aviation Projects

When general aviation advocates received copies of President Obama's 2011 budget, presented on Monday, they immediately honed in on the issue of user fees. A preliminary version of the budget presented last year included language favorable to introducing such fees, which have long been opposed by just about everyone on the GA side. But the final budget did not contain the offending verbiage, leading to cheers from GA's top alphabet groups (and probably a few raspberries from the airline lobby). NBAA president Ed Bolen said, "The proposal introduced by the White House today stands in clear contrast to language we saw last year. Our community, which has been so energized and mobilized by the user fee threat, should be heartened by this news." AOPA president Craig Fuller said, "The decision not to include user fees in the 2011 budget is encouraging, and it allows all of us in the aviation community to focus on important priorities like air traffic control modernization, keeping airports open and growing the pilot population." In fact, AOPA reports that the Obama administration is proposing a 32 percent increase in funding for NextGen modernization, with $1.1 billion devoted to furthering technologies such as ADS-B and LPV approaches, building the NextGen infrastructure and expanding R&D. Additionally, Monday's budget includes $2 million for research into alternative fuels to replace 100LL, a line item not found in the previous two years' budgets. And while President Obama did not specifically mention general aviation in his state of the union address last week, he did cite tax incentives for business that invest in capital equipment — which could include an extension of the accelerated tax depreciation for aircraft purchases. It might be asking a bit much for the President to include "private jets" in his stimulus strategy, but if the administration is willing to provide funding and tax incentives for GA under the radar, the net result can only help.