The ICAO countries and the United States supports user fee implementation. User Fees are charges for direct payment of services received by airspace users in the 50+ countries that have de-politicized the provision of air traffic control.
How does one determine if it is a fee or tax? If a fee, monies collected should go directly to fund the purpose of the fee. If a tax, the collected monies will go into a large pull of money where congress may use the collected money as they desire.
The user fee scheme is hurtful to consumers who fly on any type of aircraft. It may be airline, business aviation or simply a small aircraft out for a pleasure ride with family.
Overflight Fees and EAS
Overflight fees are the only example of the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization actually charging users for the services it provides. Instead of these funds going to shore up the agency’s squeezed ATC budget, elected representatives have decided instead to use those dollars providing subsidies for Essential Air Services (EAS). Funding for EAS will decrease over a four-year period, at which point the program would sunset (except for Alaska and Hawaii). All of which demonstrates why Congress should not be in charge of creating ATC user fees.
For nearly four decades, excise taxes on general aviation fuel, airline passenger tickets, and cargo have financed the bulk of the expenses for airport improvements, modernizing the air traffic control system, researching new technologies, and the operations of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic control system. The taxes deposited into the Airport and Airway Trust Fund support nearly 87 percent of the FAA budget.
The remainder of the FAA’s budget is funded through a contribution from the General Fund. This reflects the public benefit conveyed to all Americans by the world’s safest, most efficient national airspace system.
Historically, user fees have severely impacted general aviation, often curtailing growth in operations. Moreover, a user fee system would limit congressional oversight, effectively removing Congress from its role as the FAA’s board of governors. For over a decade, aviation industry organizations, have maintained that a user fee system for any segment of the aviation community will be harmful to the entire community.
Industry leaders believe user fees are not the best way to collect it for the following reasons:
- Assessing user fees for air traffic denigrates safety by discouraging aircraft operators from using the services.
- Collecting the current aviation excise taxes is extremely efficient with a low cost of collection and has been in place for nearly four decades, requiring very little government oversight. Collecting user fees would require a huge new accounting bureaucracy with a much higher cost to collect the fees.
- Implementing user fees removes critical congressional oversight, directing, and management of FAA resources that are key to an efficient national air transportation system.
- The air traffic control system is a public system designed to provide services for the airlines that is far in excess of that necessary for general aviation.
- Operators of light general aviation aircraft contribute $60 million a year and corporate jets pay $210 million annually to the trust fund through fuel taxes.
- General aviation also supports the aviation system with locally imposed taxes and charges on hangar and tiedown rental, fuel, and other assessments.
The aviation trust fund was projected to have a $4.2 billion surplus by 2011. The 2012 FAA budget is about $15.9 billion per year. User fees will be a tax and not a use fee. The consumer will not reap any benefits.