On May 4, 2005, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) issued a Report titled “Airport and Airway Trust Fund: Preliminary Observations on Past, Present, and Future”. The Report was given to Subcommittee on Aviation, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in connection with the current debate regarding the future of the Fund as well as the future funding of the FAA. The Report addresses the financial condition of the Fund and makes for interesting reading.
The Report concludes that “[o]ne of the critical questions that will need to be addressed is not only the amount of the Trust Fund’s uncommitted balance but also whether the government has the fiscal capacity to fund current and future Trust Fund obligations while concurrently addressing the needs of other competing programs for scarce resources.” It also notes that “FAA and Congress will also have to find a way to better align FAA’s costs with revenue and to better address both the cost and revenue sides of the ledger” (meaning balance the FAA’s budget). To do this, the Report suggest that the FAA will have to consider alternatives “ranging from increasing the current taxes that accrue to the Trust Fund to adopting user fees that would be more cost related—and the trade-offs associated with each.”
With the mention of user-fees, the GA alphabet groups have and will continue to oppose any such fees. Additionally, the reports of the comments made by some of the Aviation Subcommittee members seems to indicate that the FAA’s financial management will receive considerable scrutiny before user-fees will even be considered. It appears however that the user-fee issue will remain on the table during the debate and will continue to warrant vigilance on the part of those who oppose such fees.