President Barack H. Obama’s proposed budget is calling for aviation user charges starting in 2011, writes Warren D. Morningstar of AOPA.
The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released the proposal on Feb. 26 and, although there is not much detail, the document makes it clear that the administration wants to replace some aviation excise taxes with “direct user charges.”
“It is often said the devil is in the details, but even with only a few details, we are concerned,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller. “We have been working constructively with the Obama administration and Congress about moving forward with air traffic control modernization and airport development. However, the warning light went on with the budget briefing documents and the plan for imposing billions in user fees on the aviation community.”
The budget “proposes repealing some aviation excise taxes and replacing these taxes with direct user charges” (page 129 of the budget proposal). “Direct user charges are just another name for user fees,” Fuller stated. The proposed user fees would add up to some $7 billion in 2011, or about half of the FAA’s total budget.
“We don’t know what kind of user charges the Obama administration would propose to implement, but the previous administration wanted to raise about $7 billion through air traffic control system user fees,” Fuller pointed out.
The Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), a staunch opponent of user fees, released a statement saying: “I note that the budget appears to propose some type of aviation user fee. Aviation user fees have been proposed several times in the past by OMBs of various administrations, and have not been adopted by Congress.” Fuller testified in support of Chairman Oberstar’s bill, H.R.915, to finance the FAA through the current system of aviation excise taxes, earlier in February.