10:53 PM

Getting Ugly
on The Hill

AOPA is out this week with a story that ought to make any GA pilot in West Virginia or Mississippi think twice about who the hell they elected. As we hit the eighty day mark before FAA funding runs out, two prominent Senators – one each from either side of the aisle – are using their wagging tongues as daggers to stab GA in the back. From AOPA:

"Commercial airline passengers shouldn't continue to subsidize corporate jets," said aviation subcommittee Chairman John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) during a Senate Finance Committee hearing. "If we don't restore equity, then as chairman of this aviation subcommittee, I will address the equity issue by looking for ways to limit general aviation access to congested airspace." And in making his position crystal clear that there would be severe penalties if their FAA funding bill (S.1300) is changed or disapproved, Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said, "We're going to have a fair bill or no bill, and I'm prepared to go to the mat."
In supporting their failed President to the bitter end of his failed second term, neither Rockefeller nor Lott mentioned that S.1300 would eliminate the fuel tax the airlines currently pay. To these Bush cronies, any tax break for Big Anything is a good tax break.

But AOPA points out that two other Senators aren't buying the airline's tax break:
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) noted that, "We've had preferential tax treatment for the airlines, particularly in pensions." And Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) questioned that with all that the FAA was trying to accomplish, "why would you eliminate the fuel tax on the airlines?" He noted that the ATC user fee would likely discourage flights to smaller communities.
As we sift through the DC-BS that each side lobs across the aisle, one loyal Bush trooper was caught with her spin meter on MAX when questioned about the FAA's alleged budget crisis:
"We [the FAA] don't feel starved for funds," said FAA Administrator Marion Blakey in response to a question from Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Hey wait a minute, Marion, I thought you, ATA and the airlines said the sky was falling? Which is it, is the FAA about to go under or do you have enough money to table Bush's user fee scheme forever? If you ask the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), it sure sounds like the current method of FAA funding is working out just fine:
Peter R. Orszag, CBO Director, said that with a forecast 7 percent annual growth in aviation tax revenues, the trust fund would bring in some $158 billion over the next 10 years, versus an inflation-adjusted FAA budget baseline of $135 billion.
Gee, Marion, let me help you out on this. Even with my limited math skills, I know that $158 bilion is more than $135 billion!!! This is precisely the kind of government shell game we get when the lamest duck and his buddies try to bamboozle the citizenry when they think we aren't watching. They think we pilots are busy watching them fumble the ball on Iraq, on immigration, on health care, on the environment and on Katrina, but they would be way wrong in that. To GA and most professional pilots, Job No. 1 is beating the user fee fiasco they are trying to shove down our throats.

And I'll close this post with a pull from AOPA, which ought to make your skin crawl:
The funding authority for the FAA and the government's ability to collect aviation taxes will expire in about 80 days. If an FAA funding bill (called a "reauthorization bill") is not approved before then, the FAA could be forced to stop operations.
Eighty days. Now, my friends is not the time to blink. This needs to be top of the mind all day, every day to anyone with a pilot's license, anyone who wants to start taking flying lessons, or anyone who manufactures or sells anything pilots use. Remember, AOPA had endorsed H.R.2881, the House FAA funding bill. Memorize that last sentence, and tell your pilot friends to tell their pilot friends.

Senate bill, bad, House bill good.

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