ACGA opposes unfair taxes on general aviation
WASHINGTON - The corn and soybean fields of my home state of Illinois are a sight with which many residents are familiar. Without constant care, attention and a little luck, these fields easily could be removed from the rural landscape. Threats t...
WASHINGTON - The corn and soybean fields of my home state of Illinois are a sight with which many residents are familiar. Without constant care, attention and a little luck, these fields easily could be removed from the rural landscape. Threats to the crop can come from all sides: from below with pest infestation, from above with lack of rain and even from agents beyond our control.
Farmers and researchers continually adapt to find ways of combating these threats. Using tools such as integrated pest management, modern growing techniques and more efficient machinery, we have been successful in almost every situation where production is concerned.
However, a threat is looming all across the Midwest and beyond. Small aircraft have become essential to researchers, growers, distributors and businesses to connect with each other as well as connect quickly and efficiently with their customers. Ignoring this crucial tool, commercial airlines have used their loud voices in Congress to propose a bill in the Senate Commerce Committee that likely would remove their tax obligations and put them squarely on the backs of the small pilots and aircraft owners who are essential to an efficient corn industry.
Changing the system
The Senate bill (S. 1300) moved through the Senate Commerce Committee in May. The bill, if passed and enacted, will change the tried-and-true funding system to include a radical new "user fee." Aircraft owners will pay a per-flight user fee regardless of size and passenger load. Under this skewed logic, a small aircraft carrying three people owes the same amount in taxes as a jet carrying 300. An amendment at the time of the vote to strike user fees was narrowly defeated.
The Senate Commerce Committee also has recommended the fuel tax on general aviation more than double, moving from 21 cents per gallon to 49 cents per gallon. While general aviation planes are left to deal with this gigantic tax hike, the fuel tax on commercial aviation would be completely eliminated, resulting in a tax break of millions of dollars for airline CEOs. In the coming weeks, the Senate Finance Committee will create its own aviation funding bill. That's why we must make sure major commercial airlines and their lobbyists are not successful in pushing through a user fee tax, which would jeopardize the benefits of general aviation.
Rural lossesThe effects of these new tax increases do not end with just the airplane pilots and owners paying more. Small airports throughout Illinois serve general aviation almost exclusively. Because these airports are ignored by commercial airlines, residents who live near these airports rely almost exclusively on these airports to connect with communities in Iowa and beyond. With the enactment of this hike, small airports will see drastic drops in air traffic into the airport and fewer planes in the hangars. As many airports close as a result of the loss of money and business, these rural communities will lose an access point that is invaluable to the success of the residents.
Because of these losses, Illinois residents who have come to rely on general aviation aircraft will see drastic shortages in the goods and services they once were able to receive. Small businesses take to the skies to connect with customers and respond quickly during a crisis, allowing the rural residents who depend on them to keep obtaining the materials they need for day-to-day life.
Midwesterners realize the great benefits corn can have for the future of the nation. They have successfully fought off droughts, pests and poor growing seasons and had bountiful harvests that have boosted the economy. We cannot let this threat risk this essential crop to give the airlines an undeserved tax break.
Editor's Note: Bolin is president of the American Corn Growers Association.