House Committee Hears User-Fee Arguments

Members of the House Ways and Means Committee heard from several players in the aviation-taxes/user-fee debate in a hearing on Wednesday. FAA Administrator Marion Blakey made her pitch for user fees, telling the committee that “general aviation drives about 16 percent of the costs of the air traffic control system, while only paying about 3 percent of the taxes.” The committee also heard from Gerald Dillingham, director of the Government Accountability Office, who said the current trust fund system is already raising enough money to support the FAA without the imposition of user fees. “Selected proposals for funding aviation activities could generate more revenue, but could also lead to unintended consequences,” he said in his report. “For example, a House committee recommendation to raise general aviation fuel tax rates could increase trust fund revenue, but might reduce fuel purchases, which would limit the amount of the revenue increase.” Dillingham also said that when fees are imposed for aviation activities, “care must be taken to ensure that efforts to avoid the fees do not compromise safety.” Joseph Kile of the Congressional Budget Office concluded, “Pricing the air traffic control system so as to provide the appropriate economic incentives to the various sectors of the aviation industry may enable the system to better accommodate the growing demand for air travel.” Also speaking at the hearing were Phil Boyer, president of AOPA; James May, president of the Air Transport Association; and spokesmen from Delta Air Lines, UPS, Bradley International Airport in Connecticut and Winner Aviation, an FBO in Ohio.

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