Aviation User Fees Dead?

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Rep. James Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, told Bloomberg News on Thursday there will be no mention of user fees in the House’s version of the FAA reauthorization bill. The Minnesota Democrat (Cirrus' headquarters in Duluth is in his district) said “none of what the [Bush] Administration is proposing” is in the House bill. "We're plotting a path to achieving it without the Administration's fees," he said. Just what that path is wasn’t clear, but Bloomberg seemed to gather from its interview with Oberstar that he believes the existing system of fuel taxes on general aviation and ticket and cargo taxes on commercial aviation will sustain the FAA as it embarks on a massive modernization program. Last month the Senate approved a $25 per flight “modernization surcharge” on business aircraft (everywhere except Alaska) in its FAA reauthorization bill, but it’s getting major opposition from GA groups that fear the establishment of a user-fee billing and collecting system will just open the door to more of the same. The Air Transport Association, which lobbied tirelessly to have user fees implemented, is still holding out hope that the House bill will address what it sees as inequities in the funding of the airspace system. "We're tired of subsidizing corporate aviation," ATA spokesman David Castelveter told Bloomberg.