Higher Fees Could Jeopardize Safety, Senators Say
U.S. Senators Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Mike Johanns (R-Nebraska) are leading the fight against the Obama Administration’s proposal in the Fiscal Year 2013 budget to establish a $100 user fee on certain General Aviation (GA) users.
Begich and Johanns, co-founders of the Senate’s General Aviation Caucus, have sent a letter to President Obama, signed by 26 other Senators, outlining their concerns and asking the Administration to drop the proposed fee increase.
“The Administration’s proposal would bypass the existing per-gallon system and create a new bureaucratic regime within the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to collect a new user fee. We believe the per-gallon tax assessed on aviation gasoline and jet fuel is the most efficient and effective way to generate revenue from aviation users,” the Senators state in their letter.
The letter also outlines concern that a new user fee like the one proposed by the Administration could create a disincentive for pilots and aircraft to use air traffic control services or fly in controlled airspace.
“Controlled airspace exists around virtually every public use airport regardless of whether there is an air traffic control facility present. By discouraging ATC use, this proposal may inadvertently create a less safe aviation environment.
The letter was praised by industry support groups in Alaska. “A $100 per flight fee to use Air Traffic services would be devastating to general aviation in Alaska,” said Tom George, Alaska Regional Manager for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. “It would result in a lot of pilots avoiding the use of these services, which is a detriment to aviation safety. Also, general aviation is the backbone of transportation in Alaska and this $100 per flight fee would have a severe impact on airports, and all the businesses that support aviation.”
“The Alaska Airmen’s Association, representing over 2,500 members, supports the current system of aviation fuel taxes and opposes user fees,” said Adam White, President of the Alaska Airmen’s Association. “The fuel tax is a far more equitable method of funding the world’s best aviation system. User fees have the potential of decreasing safety and reducing revenues as pilots avoid using services in an effort to reduce cost. User fees are a move in the wrong direction, especially for Alaska where aviation is a critical lifeline for goods and services.”
The letter ends by pointing out that the recent FAA Reauthorization bill was able to pass with bipartisan support in the Senate in particular because it did not assess new user fees on General Aviation.
“I will work with my colleagues in the Senate and continue to oppose any user fee proposal that unfairly singles out General Aviation,” Begich said.