Murkowski faults Obama aviation fee

Did the senator overstate who'd pay fee, impact on state?

Sen. Lisa Murkowski is harshly criticizing an aviation user fee suggested by the Obama administration, but information provided by her office appears to contradict both the scope and the impact of the fee.

Murkowski Tuesday said she’s sent a letter to the Obama, challenging one of the recommendations for deficit reduction he’d made, for what she said was a “$100 fee per flight on general aviation aircraft.”

She said the impact on Alaska, with its heavy reliance on airplanes would be “devastating.”

General aviation aircraft are the usually smaller planes that are common in Alaska, other than military or scheduled airlines.

Murkowski said deficit reduction was no justification for the new fee, and equated any fee with a tax increase. “While I agree that our nation’s debt must be reduced, increasing taxes on general aviation aircraft through new user fees could stifle economic recovery,” she said.

Murkowski may have overstated to whom the fee would apply. According to the president’s proposal, presented to the Congressional budget “supercommittee” as part of its failed attempt to reach a deficit reduction agreement, it wouldn’t apply to all aircraft.

Exempt would be public aircraft, recreational piston aircraft, and air ambulances. Also exempt would be aircraft operating outside controlled airspace.

Murkowski’s office was unable Tuesday to provide an explanation of who in Alaska it would apply to, but aircraft industry websites said it would only apply to those filing instrument flight plans.

The Obama administration plan said the current system means airline passenger taxes currently dramatically subsidize corporate jet owners.

If its plan were to be adopted, it said, total charges to aviation users would cover about three-fourths of the costs of airport investments and air traffic control systems.

Murkowski said aviation is the foundation of the transportation system in Alaska.

“The majority of our communities cannot be reached by rail, auto, or marine modes and the ability to carry people and goods to and from these communities by air is the lifeline of our nation’s biggest state.”

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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