User Fee Alert Sounded By HAI
User fees will likely form the foundation of a bipartisan budget deal aimed at avoiding another government shutdown and that has at least one aviation group calling its members to action. House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and his Senate counterpart Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., are negotiating a spending plan that would avoid the political gridlock that led to the 17-day shutdown in October. According to Politico, they need to raise a few billion dollars to make ends meet and, given the Republican aversion to any kind of tax increase, have reportedly settled on user fees to bring in the needed revenue. While there has been no specific mention of general aviation as a target, the president of the Helicopter Association International wants to keep it that way. “User fees are the single greatest threat we face in Washington," said HAI President Matt Zuccaro. He's calling on the membership to contact their elected representatives to ensure GA user fees are not part of the agenda.
Ryan and Murray have apparently agreed that user fees are a politically acceptable substitute for tax increases that would otherwise raise the needed money. The semantics have apparently satisfied some of the most hard-line Republicans. “That sort of thing is a user fee, it’s not a tax,” Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., told Politico. “It’s not something that I would have an objection to as a tax increase." So far increased fees on airline tickets are the only specific target mentioned but the suggestion is that user fees will be applied to a wide range of government services to raise the additional revenue. "Elected officials and the FAA need to stop playing political games and start calling user fees what they really are, another tax," said Zuccaro.