9:17 PM

Making the Right Noise in WDC.

I'm not yet ready to say we have slain the Bushies and their plan to jump into bed with their corporate buddies at ATA and the airlines, but AOPA is reporting that quite a few members of Congress are making comments in our favor. The grapevine seems to suggest W and the FAA may not have such an easy road to travel before they jam user fees and a 366 percent fuel tax increase down the throats of general and business aviation users.

As promised, here is the latest from AOPA, verbatim off their site:

The Bush administration's 70.1 cents-per-gallon tax on avgas is not likely to fly out of the House aviation subcommittee. Nor, for that matter, are the proposed user fees if the March 14 hearing is any indicator.

"I have grave reservations about implementing a user fee for which there does not appear to be a hard ceiling, and for which the FAA would have broad authority to raise fees to match whatever costs are incurred," subcommittee Chairman Jerry Costello (D-Ill.) told FAA Administrator Marion Blakey.

"I'm still unconvinced that the current system of aviation excise taxes that has given us a stable and ample trust fund needs to be changed so drastically," said Rep. John T. Salazar (D-Colo.), "and I'm very concerned about the impact on general aviation."

Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) apologized for calling the proposal "DOA," at the last hearing, "but there was considerable frustration and anger among the members (of the subcommittee) about the huge increase in the gas tax."

And Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa) told the administrator, "I believe that general aviation is at the table and willing to pay our part through current resources, so let's see if we can find a solution. We've got to talk."

"I certainly agree," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "It's time to take the ridiculous tax increase and user fees off the table so that we can have a meaningful dialogue on FAA funding."

But, Boyer added, "We still have our work cut out for us."

While many of the subcommittee members are ready to look at other FAA funding ideas, Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), the ranking member of the full committee and former chairman of the aviation subcommittee, is siding with the administration. "I'd like to see the whole system paid for by the users, not by taxpayers who don't use the system," said Mica. "I guess I'm the lone stranger in supporting the administration's plan."

Boyer is scheduled to testify at the next House transportation and infrastructure aviation subcommittee hearing, which will focus specifically on the tax and user fee proposals within the administration's proposed FAA reauthorization bill.
With the Scandal du Jour that comes out of the White House these days, I am praying that W's eye is off the user fee ball just long enough to let us whip this thing once and for all. Because in The Decider's world right now, what should really be more important then sticking a knife in aviation's back is avoiding subpoena city and saving the bacon of Rove, Cheney and Gonzo.

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