Groups Oppose User Fees--Again

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At last October's National Business Aviation Association meeting in Atlanta, leaders of the major general aviation groups agreed that despite headway made in Congress on the user fee issue, they believed the matter was far from settled. On Monday, with the FAA functioning on an extension of its 2007 budget because of the administration's failed attempt to restructure the agency's finance structure in last year's budget, the White House again called for a budget including a user fee-based system that levies a $25 per leg charge on turbine-powered GA aircraft. It also cuts funding for the Airport Improvement Program. NBAA, which has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying against user fees, is pledging to keep up the fight as are other groups. "Once again, the Bush administration wants huge new taxes and user fees imposed on general aviation, and it wants to slash and burn the Airport Improvement Program," Pete Bunce, president and CEO of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, said. "What part of 'NO!' doesn’t the White House understand?" asked AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Despite Congress saying 'no' to the Administration's proposal to scrap the current funding mechanism for a less efficient one that imposes user fees, they have once again launched an effort to complete a FAA reauthorization bill by proposing the exact same failed plan," he said. DOT Secretary Mary Peters insisted the system needs to change. "Traditional approaches are not capable of producing the results we need to keep America's economy growing," she said. Meanwhile, Acting FAA Administrator Bobby Sturgell gave a "terse defense" of the administration's decision to recycle a reauthorization proposal that failed last year in Congress, wrote the Wall Street Journal. "There are no changes," Sturgell said.