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NBAA Continues Fighting To Defeat User Fees

Spring of 2007 has been a busy time at NBAA, as the Association continues leading the fight against new user fee proposals for funding the FAA. In early May, a U.S. Senate committee introduced a proposal that included a per-flight user fee. The fee plan, which was opposed by NBAA, represented the culmination of efforts by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the airlines to move FAA funding away from the existing, ultra-efficient fuel tax funding system for the FAA and toward one based on user fees.

NBAA and its Members, along with others in the general aviation (GA) community, went to work immediately, voicing support for an amendment introduced by Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and John Sununu (R-NH) to strike the user fee provision from the Senate proposal. Only a few days later, a committee vote to eliminate user fees from the latest FAA funding plan came within just one vote of succeeding.



John Harrington Photography

In his March 8 testimony, NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen urged the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security to reject aviation user fees in any form.

The Senate Commerce Committee's razor-thin vote demonstrated the ability of NBAA and its Members to reach their elected representatives. "This remarkable vote shows that opposition to the per-flight user fee is growing among senators from both sides of the aisle, who are coming to share our concerns about moving to aviation user fees," said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. "Even though we didn't quite land a knockout blow to user fees with this vote, many other opportunities to do so will arise as the FAA reauthorization moves through Congress, and we need to be prepared to mobilize."

The one-vote Senate committee margin on the issue of user fees for FAA funding also demonstrated progress the industry has made this year in the battle against the big airlines' lobbying campaign to move to a user fee system for air traffic control (ATC) modernization funding and to shift airline costs to GA.

For example, in February, the White House unveiled its overall federal budget plan, which also called for an assortment of user fees, tax hikes for GA and decreased congressional oversight of the aviation system. The FAA budget that followed reflected this toxic mix of ingredients for general aviation.

Advocating for Business Aviation in Washington

As the proposals from the White House and FAA made their way to Capitol Hill for consideration, NBAA and its Members sustained the Association's long-standing effort to oppose user fees. "The fact is, a user fee regime will be the first step in the commercialization of the air transportation system, an outcome favored by the airlines because they would have the most leverage over how it would be operated," Bolen said.

In testimony before Senate and House committees, Bolen represented the views of the business aviation community. Replacing fuel taxes with user fees would "overthrow a funding structure that has proven to be stable, reliable and growing for more than 25 years in exchange for a radical, untested funding mechanism that would jeopardize the largest, safest and most efficient air transportation system in the world,"Bolen said.

Representing the general aviation community at an industry forum hosted by the FAA, Bolen underscored the industry's longstanding commitment to aviation system modernization. "General aviation has led the way in modernizing the system because we have a vital interest in expanding system capacity as absolutely essential for the future of our industry,"he said.

Following the FAA event, Bolen told an industry hearing hosted by the Aerospace States Association (ASA) that NBAA's 8,000 Members, "are committed to working with Congress to transform and modernize the nation's aviation system. Likewise, we are committed to modernization policies that support the continued growth of all aviation segments, including general aviation."

Speaking at a forum held by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce a few weeks later, Bolen reminded those in attendance that several knowledgeable sources have said that a new user fee funding structure like the one proposed by the big airlines is not necessary for modernization. "The Congressional Budget Office, the Department of Transportation's Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office have all said that the current funding structure will support the FAA's ongoing programs and modernization needs,"Bolen said.

NBAA has taken other actions to fight the user fee threat. In April, NBAA joined the Alliance for Aviation Across America, a diverse coalition focused on preserving access to air transportation for towns and cities across the country. The Alliance opposes airline user fee proposals for FAA funding; its members also oppose aviation tax hikes that would harm businesses and communities that rely on general aviation because they often have little or no airline service.

"We are confident that the tens of thousands of small and mid-size businesses that need general aviation will have support from policymakers who oppose new government bureaucracies and care about small and rural communities,"Bolen said. "NBAA is proud to be a part of this alliance, and we urge organizations and individuals to join it by visiting www.aviationacrossamerica.org.

Ways You Can Fight User Fees

NBAA's Contact Congress resource has long provided an easy way for you to contact your federal elected officials and express your opposition to the FAA's user fee proposal.

But even if you already have written letters to your congressman and senators, there is more you can do. Be sure to visit NBAA's new Online Advocacy Center at www.nbaa.org/advocacycenter and use the various resources there to continue the fight against user fees.

In addition to providing a link to Contact Congress, the Online Advocacy Center separates the user fee myths from the realities and provides talking points you can use when discussing the subject with government leaders. The site also has information on how to:

  • Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper
  • Publish a call to action in your company's newsletter
  • Encourage others to write Congress about this critical issue
  • Place a Contact Congress banner ad on your web site
  • Meet personally with your congressman and senators
  • Register your readiness to help NBAA further