As I watch Barack Obama come to power and begin the ridiculous task of steam cleaning D.C. to remove the stench, I am cautiously optimistic about what I see. Am I happy about a gigantic $3.6 trillion budget coming our way? No. Do I feel slighted about the way the housing bailout is leaving all of us good citizens who paid our mortgages behind? Absolutely. Am I glad the rich are getting their Bush tax cuts repealed? You betcha.
Just after President Obama's FY2010 budget (pdf) was released, AOPA and one of their best writers, Warren Morningstar, began scouring it for clues of good or bad news for GA. And what was found is disheartening, but not a disaster. From AOPA.org:
"President Barack Obama’s proposed budget is calling for aviation user charges starting in 2011. The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released the proposal Feb. 26, and although there is not much detail, the document makes it clear that the administration wants to replace some of the 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.”Does this language in this budget mean we are to expect user fees? No, not necessarily, says Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. AOPA reports Oberstar – a "staunch opponent of user fees" – said this:
“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.”As a proud member of AOPA, I feel my back is covered on user fees with the new administration. Said AOPA President Fuller:
“We have already contacted White House officials to express our concern and to reiterate the negative effects that user fees would have on the general aviation industry. We look forward to an open dialogue with the president on the best way to finance the modernization of our air traffic control system and the FAA’s continued operations.”An "open dialogue" with the White House? What a far out concept that is, or at least WAS for the past eight years. But this is a different White House, a different time,and a different President. I feel strongly that as more information about the harm user fees will do to the middle class is brought out into the light of day, Congress will defeat the idea before it becomes law.
We aviators again need to stay firmly behind AOPA, NBAA, EAA and the Alliance for Aviation Across America, because until this fight is over and we have funded FAA without user fees, there is work to be done. And I am confident that with an administration that has returned intelligence to the skill set needed to run this country, if we keep the pressure on and make our case based not on corporate greed but on logic, they will make the right call on this.