User Fees Proposed Starting 2011, Opponents Rally Forces

A segment in President Obama's budget proposal has opponents of general aviation user fees sounding the alarm. Page 129 of the budget "proposes repealing some aviation excise taxes and replacing these taxes with direct user charges." The charges, generally a synonym for fees to use specific FAA services-including air traffic control-are said to total some $7 billion in 2011, which is about half of the total FAA budget. Critics of user fees claim that the current system of airline ticket taxes and general aviation fuel taxes is the most equitable method for exacting payment for government services rendered. Critics also maintain that establishing an infrastructure for billing and collecting the user fees would be difficult and unnecessary. The ticket and fuel tax mechanism is already in place. One apparent ally in Congress is Rep. James Oberstar (D- Minn) who serves as chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. His FAA funding bill H.R. 915 includes FAA financing via the current system. AOPA President Craig Fuller said, "We have been working constructively with the Obama administration and Congress about moving forward with air traffic control modernization and airport development. However, the warning light went on with the budget briefing documents and the plan for imposing billions in user fees on the aviation community."