Election Helps Aviation User-Fee Fight

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The massive shift in the political winds in Washington is a major boost to the fight against general aviation user fees, delegates to AOPA Expo in Palm Springs were told on Saturday. "The election says we're in much better shape," AOPA President Phil Boyer told those attending the morning general session. Boyer said the political dynamics might result in the FAA's proposal to replace taxation with user fees to fund most of the agency's operation being shelved. "There will be gridlock in Washington for at least a year," he said. Since Congress must reauthorize the FAA funding formula by the end of next September, a frozen Congress might not be able to deal with it in time and that could mean the current system will just be rolled over for another 10 years. But even if Congress does become unstuck enough to deal with a new funding proposal, Boyer said the user-fee option now has powerful opposition in Washington. Boyer said Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., will be the next chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and he well understands the impact of general aviation on the economy, since Cirrus Design is in his district. The Aviation Subcommittee will be headed up by either Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., or Jerry Costello, D-Ill., and both are strong opponents of the user-fee option. "Either way, we win on this issue," Boyer said, while adding there are indications in trade publications that the airline industry, which strongly supports the user fee initiative, considers the election a setback.