September 20, 2007 - The legislation endorsed by EAA and the rest of the general aviation community to fund the FAA - HR 2881 - was approved by the House of Representatives Thursday afternoon on a 267-151 vote, setting the stage for a crucial conference debate with whatever legislation comes out of the Senate. That bill (S-1300) introduces user fees, which GA steadfastly opposes, while HR 2881 preserves GA-preferred and time-tested excise taxes as the funding mechanism for the system.
Fuel taxes in the House bill are increased - from 19.3 cents to 24.1 cents per gallon on avgas and 21.8 to 35.9 cents per gallon for non-commercial jet fuel. The new avgas tax approximates the rate of inflation since the last increase was authorized by Congress, but this time all additional revenue from the tax increases would be earmarked specifically for air traffic control modernization.
"This is a significant step forward for GA," said EAA's Doug Macnair, vice president of government relations. "It sets up a strong bargaining position with the Senate in conference, with the House clearly rejecting user fees, supporting and bolstering the existing airport and airways trust fund system, supporting ATC modernization, and not granting the airlines an enormous tax break.
"We're very happy with the bill," he added. "It actually provides funding for air traffic modernization as opposed to simply disguising an airline tax break behind modernization rhetoric. It does contain some modest fuel tax increases, but they are in line with inflation, and the money from the tax increase has been earmarked for ATC modernization, so it actually does provide funds for that purpose. As far as we're concerned, the funding mechanism (excise taxes) has been preserved by the House, and no new user fees are called for."
There are some significant increases in existing transactional fees included in the bill for services such as aircraft registration and airman certificates, but compared to user fees, those are considered a decent tradeoff, Macnair said.
EAA appreciates the efforts of the transportation committees and subcommittees, the House Ways & Means committee, and the House leadership for crafting a great bill and moving it through the legislative process in a timely manner. "They came up with something that funds the FAA and modernization in a manner we can live with, met the critical statutory deadlines, and we are very grateful for all of the hard work put forth by the Members and their staff," Macnair said.
EAA also appreciates the efforts of members who spoke loudly and clearly to let their representatives know their views on the user fee issue. EAA will be asking members to speak up again, once the conferees are named and debate on the final version of the bill commences.