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House and Senate negotiators trying to reach agreement on a joint budget and avert another government shutdown early next year are said to be leaning toward user fees, including aviation user fees, as a new source of revenue. The move would appear to placate conservative fiscal hawks who oppose changes to individual tax rates. In one published report, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) was quoted as saying, “That sort of thing is a user fee, it's not a tax. It's not something that I would have an objection to as a tax increase.”

Ridiculous, says HAI President Matt Zuccaro, who issued a resounding call to the helicopter industry and readers of RotorNews to immediately send a message to Washington telling lawmakers the implementation of "user fees" on the general aviation industry for air traffic control (ATC) services will be a devastating financial blow to the helicopter industry.

"Elected officials and the FAA need to stop playing political games and start calling user fees what they really are, another TAX, said Zuccaro. “While HAI members are out in the field day in and day out, providing critical services to the public — medical transport, firefighting, law enforcement, utility repair, petroleum production to name a few — our government, due to their financial incompetence, is trying to suck more money out of struggling small businesses.

“User fees are the single greatest threat we face in Washington, and this is no time to sit back and relax letting others carry the important message of ’no new taxation on the helicopter industry’ to Washington."

Helicopters use minimal ATC services in the conduct of their operations, do not require runways, or even airports. Our industry pays its share in the form of aviation fuel taxes at the pump when we refuel our helicopters. User fees for ATC services will only add another layer of bureaucracy and burdensome record keeping costs to operators.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the chief negotiators, are reportedly close to a deal that would set spending levels and blunt the impact of across-the-board spending cuts for the next two years. Ryan has told his colleagues to expect the framework of a budget deal to be announced next week on Tuesday, December 10, so there is very little time to let your concerns be known. They may seek to bypass the conference committee, calling instead for a direct vote on their agreement as early as Wednesday. Any deal will have to clear congress before Friday, December 13, when House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has vowed to send members home for the holiday break.

Visit www.house.gov and www.senate.gov to identify your elected Member of Congress and your two U.S. Senators and join the helicopter industry in sending a message today to Washington to prevent what amounts to a double taxation of the general aviation (GA) industry. Say "NO" to user fees in any budget deal coming out of Washington. Time is of the essence in making sure your voice is heard by lawmakers in Washington before any votes are cast that could severely impact GA.

While some conservative lawmakers don't support swapping out automatic spending cuts at all, much less in exchange for user fees which they rightly claim are tax hikes by another name, don't count on user fees being left off the table when the dust settles. Pick up the phone today and call Washington or send an electronic message via the Internet. Most elected officials in Washington readily accept email, and their websites are set up to receive messages from constituents.

Posted in: HAI at Work
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