AOPA Raises Red Flag On User Fees

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Information about the Obama administration's FAA budget proposal that was released on Tuesday "makes it clear that the White House ... seems determined to radically reduce general fund support for aviation in America," AOPA said this week. Starting in 2011, the proposal envisions $9.6 billion coming from user fees, an increase of more than $2 billion from the initial estimate just two months ago. That figure rises to $11 billion by 2014. "We had hoped that the whole user-fee debate was behind us after both the House of Representatives and the Senate opted for a tax-based system during the last session of Congress," said Craig Fuller, AOPA president. "The new budget details open the debate about departing from the efficient and time-tested system of using fuel and ticket taxes along with support from the general taxpayer monies to fund FAA."

Changes would commence in 2011, when general-fund contributions would cover just 10 percent of the FAA's budget, down from 25 percent in 2010. Although no details are available about where user fees would come from, AOPA says the administration has said the funding system needs to be more equitable, which in the past has meant asking for more from general aviation. "It is clear that we have a lot of work to do," said Fuller. He said he believes the new Administration doesn't realize the consequences of the policy shifts they are proposing. "Our job is to help the administration understand the importance of a strong general aviation community and the advantages of a tax-based system over a user fee-based system," he said.