11:14 PM

NBAA Front
and Center in
User Fee Battle

I write quite a bit about how AOPA is duking it out on 'The Hill' for us GA pilots, but we should not forget that NBAA is also working overtime on our behalf in this cage match we are currently fighting against FAA and The Bush White House.

NBAA's Online Advocacy Center is a treasure chest of valuable information that we all should be using to become experts on this topic. To help us out, NBAA has published a list of “Talking Points” that we all ought to be able to recite from memory. Here is a taste:

• A new FAA funding proposal pushed by the big airlines would abandon the current, ultra-efficient funding system for one based on new user fees and massive tax hikes. The current funding mechanism will allow the already occurring transformation of the nation’s aviation system not just to continue, but to accelerate.

• The government can efficiently collect fuel taxes. Fuel taxes have always been directly remitted to the federal government by fuel companies, eliminating the need for a large bureaucracy to collect the taxes from hundreds of thousands of individual pilots and aircraft operators. Taxes are collected without the administrative costs required to support a large and expensive bureaucracy of collectors, administrators, auditors and accountants. The process for paying fuel taxes is simple, and it is nearly impossible to avoid paying the tax.

• Fuel taxes are assigned fairly, based on an operator’s use of the air traffic system. There is no simpler and more accurate way to distinguish between heavy and light users of the system than to measure the amount of fuel burned. Small aircraft use less fuel and pay lower taxes; large aircraft use more fuel and pay higher taxes.

• Fuel taxes help decrease noise and congestion. A tax on fuel use provides an incentive for general aviation users to purchase newer, cleaner, quieter and more fuel-efficient aircraft. Additionally, fuel taxes by their nature penalize operators that use congested airports which require more fuel use for increased taxi and air time.

• User fees are costly for governments to administer. They require a large bureaucracy of billing and collection agents, auditors and dispute resolution personnel. Money can also be lost when companies move or close.

• User fees are a costly administrative burden for operators. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has reported that it costs IATA members anywhere from $85 to $125 to process a single invoice. Costs will likely be even higher for companies that are not in the business of providing transportation for compensation or hire. User fees can be a disincentive for efficiency. There are numerous examples in Europe, Canada and elsewhere of airplanes being given longer, more circuitous routes to drive up user fees.
On the NBAA Online Advocacy Center, they ask one question that is super important:
Do you have a personal relationship with one or more of your Members of Congress? Do you have Memberships in community organizations that might be interested in this issue? Are you willing to speak out against the FAA's proposal with the news media? If so, let NBAA know by contacting NBAA's Claudia Blanton at cblanton@nbaa.org.
I say we all learn these talking points, and then get out there and talk it up to anyone who will listen. Because if we don't and they win, we'll be forced to fly in a third world system that punishes individual pilots while reaping massive profits on Big Airlines. And like Big Tobacco, Big Pharmaceuticals, Big Oil, Big Health Care and Big Insurance...when Bush and his buddies win, we lose.

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