AOPA: Why The User Fees Battle Isn't Over
New aviation user fees aren't in the Obama administration's budget, but they still may be packaged elsewhere, AOPA's Lorraine Howerton told AVweb Thursday. Howerton is AOPA's vice president of legislative affairs, and while she said AOPA's efforts had created some breathing room, the country's fiscal woes may become a serious influence on future funding decisions. As the budget deficit soars, legislators are under increasing pressure to shrink federal spending wherever possible. Currently, the general fund for the FAA is down 30 percent, said Howerton. She added that the decrease may translate into a greater draw on the Aviation Trust Fund, and that draw may in turn drive legislators to seek alternate forms of funding -- potentially, user fees. There are other concerns.
So long as the FAA's reauthorization bill is still in the pipeline changes may be incorporated to that bill, as well. A version of the bill passed the House last year, but has not made it past the Senate. At present, it does not appear that there is political will to incorporate user fees into that bill. But it is possible that fees may later be incorporated through other legislative means, said Howerton. Toward that end, AOPA is encouraging grass roots involvement and Howerton says that writing your senator and congressman matters. The content of those letters makes a difference, she added. In short, pilots should find key numbers to include -- like the number of pilots or AOPA members in their district, the number of airports, and the jobs that aviation helps generate there. Howerton said AOPA can help supply its members with those statistics. AVweb has also collected the links you'll need to find proper contact information and relative statistics, here.