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Aviation User Fees Stay In Senate FAA Bill

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An amendment introduced by Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and John Sununu, R-N.H., to strike user fees from S.1300, the Senate FAA reauthorization bill, was narrowly struck down by a roll-call vote of 12-11 on Wednesday during an executive session of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. As such, the four-year FAA reauthorization legislation -- sponsored by Sens. Trent Lott, R-Miss., and Jay Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va. -- now headed to the full Senate will include the $25 per-flight user fee for IFR operations conducted by turbine aircraft. S.1300 was touted during the session as fully funding ATC modernization to 2011, restoring full Airport Improvement Funding levels and containing a passenger bill of rights. It also would continue the fuel and ticket taxes at current levels except for the 4.3-cent per gallon fuel tax for commercial flights, which would be phased out by the bill. Sen. Nelson was the most vocal supporter of the amendment during the session, saying that it makes more sense to continue the 4.3-cent per gallon fuel tax for commercial operators versus charging a $25 IFR flight user fee. He further alleged that the airline lobby pushed for this $25 user fee to impede the success of startup very light jet air-taxi firms such as DayJet, which the airlines generally view as new competition.

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