|WASHINGTON, DC – Legislation spearheaded by Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) to eliminate a proposed user fee on Kansas’ general aviation industry passed the Senate late last night (Feb. 17, 2011), preventing a blow to a major Kansas industry in a struggling economy.
Roberts praised the Federal Aviation Administration Re-authorization bill, which will modernize the nation’s air traffic control system, improve regional and rural air service and enhance safety for all passengers.
“I am pleased the Senate has finally approved this bill after several years of negotiations and 17 extensions,” Roberts said. “Passengers will benefit from an improved air traffic control system, and we don’t have to penalize general aviation, which is a major Kansas employer, to do it.”
As early as 2007, Roberts led the effort to eliminate a general aviation user fee during the Senate Finance Committee’s markup of the Trust Fund.
At issue was debate over how to properly fund the operations of the FAA, specifically deployment of next generation technology to upgrade the national air traffic control system. The GA community supported paying higher fuel taxes to help pay for the upgrade, but strongly rejected an overly burdensome user fee system that didn’t properly measure GA’s use of the national airspace.
In 2008, following heated debate within the Senate Commerce Committee about the proposed fee on small aircraft owners, Roberts negotiated with colleagues on the committee to eliminate the user fee proposal entirely.
In 2011 at a Finance Committee hearing on the bill, Roberts, a member of the committee, again spoke on the importance of the general aviation community, which supports 25,000 Kansas jobs statewide.
“It’s essential we adopt measures that accurately reflect costs incurred by various sectors’ use of the airspace,” Roberts said. “One sector that has stepped up to the plate and is willing pay its fair share of its use of airspace is general aviation.”
Included in the FAA bill is a 61 percent tax increase on non-commercial jet fuel paid by the industry.The increase would go from 21.8 cents per gallon to 35.9 cents per gallon.
Roberts also voted against a repeal of the Essential Air Service program. The repeal effort failed. Without continued operation of the Essential Air Service program, a substantial number of Kansas communities would be without any scheduled air service that thousands of Kansans rely on for recreational and business travel.
Now the re-authorization awaits House action.