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Senate FAA legislation undermines small businesses

Somewhere in New York, a machine has worked its last day. While its tenure at a plant may have been long, it will not be laid to rest in a landfill far away.

Instead, it will be remade and put back to work somewhere else -- which is where my company, Manitoba Corp., comes in. By using a small airplane, we are able to quickly connect with customers in New York and beyond to ensure that the old metal is put to better use.

For four generations we have been recycling scrap metal for manufacturing plants around New York. After 1970, the number of manufacturing plants shrunk in Western New York, where our company was based, causing many of my competitors to go out of business. Faced with the major decision about whether to follow suit, I persuaded my father to buy a small airplane to allow us to connect with customers beyond our local area. The aircraft gave us access to other offices and the Midwest.

However, the Federal Aviation Administration has been trying to block small businesses like mine from succeeding by eliminating the use of the small airplane. The FAA's objective has gained a foothold in the Senate, where the Commerce Committee recently approved Bill S. 1300.

This proposal shifts billions of dollars in taxes onto small plane operators through a per flight "user fee" tax and a doubling of the fuel tax these operators pay -- from 21 cents per gallon to 49 cents per gallon -- all while eliminating the fuel tax on commercial airlines. The Senate Finance Committee is expected to introduce its own version of the FAA reauthorization very soon.

If the proposal is supported, small businesses and the communities they serve will be decimated. Businesses will fold and leave the area, costing local workers their jobs and forcing them to look elsewhere.

The communities that currently rely on private plane owners to deliver necessary goods and provide relief in emergency situations will lose revenue and residents, and the state as a whole will suffer as a result.

The risks are greater than economic loss to our state; if companies such as mine are forced to fold, the environment itself will suffer. Recycling scrap metal saves space in waste sites by putting the metal from old machines into better use.

The energy used by recycling an old aluminum machine is one-sixth that of creating a new machine out of fresh materials. Grounding businesses such as mine will impact the recycling industry as a whole and likely our larger environment.

User fees unfairly target small business owners, while major airlines reap another huge tax giveaway. Let's not scrap small businesses to give the airlines an undeserved tax break.

Richard Shine is the third-generation owner of Manitoba Corp. in Buffalo. He has been a pilot for more than 30 years and is a member of the Alliance for Aviation Across America.

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