Why the surprise? Presidents ALWAYS Propose FAA User Fees

Well, the predictable, durable reaction of amazement is here — you know, the shock that President Obama (again) submitted a budget that uses new FAA user fees to fund the agency.

Not selling the issue short, but the level of rhetoric and occasionally shrill reactions continue to startle and surprise me. It’s not as if there’s been a recent President of the United States who set a precedent by NOT including an FAA user-fee in his budget proposal.

By now we should be used to this idea, that we’re unlikely to ever see a President’s budget proposals without a user-fee proposal.

This idea didn’t start with the 44th President; didn’t start with the 43rd or 42, the 41st or 40th…heck, it didn’t start in this century and dates back decades.

By all means, lets continue to make our excise-tax preferences known to our lawmakers who, it’s worth noting, have a record of rejecting each and every user-fee proposal to come along. Members of this Congress went on-record last year in opposition to that year’s user-fee proposal — like this one, $100 per flight, exempting piston aircraft, law enforcement, military and emergency services flights, of course. Divide and conquer — try to split off the piston-aircraft owners in hopes some of them will develop the same us-or-them, fat-cat mantra anytime business-turbine aircraft are the subject.

Won’t work; won’t happen.

Just in the past week members of Congress went on record against any new user-fee proposal — so the cycle continues. They pitch, we strike them out.

But please — enough with the shock and outrage. User fees for ATC are and remain a bipartisan desire for White House occupants; the proposals defy party affiliation — and may always do so.

Our best defense is our numbers and our voice. Which brings up where we’re truly vulnerable — and where we need to focus our energies: Reversing the decline in our pilot population.

We’ve been shrinking for 30 years — and without a reversal we’ll continue to shrink until one day, one President and one-half-plus-one of some future Congress will look at our numbers, our opposition and conclude there’s nothing to fear.

And when they worry only about whether tapping the pocket of some alleged “fat cat” jet user will risk campaign donations come election season, the rest of general aviation and the rest of the pilot population will have something real to worry about — and not the predictable aversion to a proposal that will go nowhere.