User Fees: “Déjà vu all over again?”

The U.S. House of Representatives’ Transportation and Infrastructure Committee last week approved the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2009 (H.R. 915), a funding bill that does not contemplate new user fees for general aviation. Even so, affordable participation in personal flight is once again in peril, warns the Experimental Aircraft Association, as proponents of user fees present their case not only to a new Congress but also to a new administration, where they’ve evidently made some traction.

“The EAA community will have to rally once again to quash attempts to strap general aviation with a disproportionately heavy burden to pay for management of our nation’s airspace,” said a letter to EAA members.

“In another testament to the often cyclical nature of lawmaking, the current status of the user fees issue bears an uncanny resemblance to where it was in the spring and summer of 2007,” the letter stated. “Now, as then, the T&I Committee has passed an FAA budget-reauthorization act without user fees, the Senate counterparts haven’t yet committed, and the administration has proposed a budget that would include user fees.”

The House Ways and Means Committee will consider the bill next. Committee members have said that they will wait for the detailed version of the President’s budget proposal, expected in mid-April, before acting on the T&I Committee’s recommendations.

In 2007, Ways and Means accepted a budget-reauthorization package that would have continued the use of aviation excise taxes to fund the FAA, the nation’s air traffic control system, and national airspace modernization initiatives. That bill passed the House, but efforts on a companion bill in the Senate ultimately stalled, leaving FAA funding to continue via an extension through the end of March, now only 14 days away.

The next steps entail attempting to make inroads with the administration, the EAA letter advised. “The goal is to get the ‘direct user charges’ out of the President’s proposed budget before it gets published this spring.”

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