User-fee Debate Takes Another Step in House
The House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees appropriations in the lower chamber, heard from a number of players in the user-fee debate yesterday, bringing the FAA funding battle that much closer to resolution. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.) and ranking member Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) both spoke. Rep. Oberstar said, “While I believe that general aviation should pay somewhat more, I do not believe that the airlines should pay less than what they are now paying.” The vast majority of Rep. Mica’s prepared statement dealt with the issue of the controller contract, which he strongly opposes re-examining. Other familiar faces were present with their familiar arguments. The committee must now consider whether it wants to forward the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s version, which calls for minor fuel-tax increases, or the FAA-proposed bill, which seeks to radically transform the way in which the agency is funded. Time is running short, however, as the current tax authorization expires September 30 and Congress will be on recess from August 4 through September 3, after which time the legislation must make it through the full House and Senate, be rectified in conference and then signed by the President.