Inaction reigns on FAA $$ plan

 - September 2, 2008, 7:42 AM

With Congress out of town on vacation, FAA reauthorization and the question of user fees remained in limbo.

The FAA has been operating on funding and rogram extensions since Sept. 30, 2007, even though the House passed its version of FAA reauthorization last September 30. A Senate version has never been approved.

The House-approved legislation contains no new user fees for general aviation. Although two Senate committees eventually agreed in principle that no new user fees would be levied on general aviation, the Senate Appropriations aviation subcommittee took it a step further.

Shortly before leaving Washington for vacation, the panel once again inserted language decreeing that “none of the funds in this act shall be available for the [FAA] to finalize or implement any regulation that would promulgate new aviation user fees not specifically authorized by law after the date of enactment of this act.”

In its report on the bill, the subcommittee challenged Bush Administration and FAA claims that the agency would run out of money without a change in the funding system. “The Appropriations Committee has played a central role in ensuring that the FAA has the resources it needs to conduct its missions,” the report noted.

Although the appropriations bill would prohibit spending money on implementing user fees, it doesn’t remove the threat of fees. Because funding of the FAA is a two-part process, it takes both an authorizing bill and an appropriations bill.

“While the compromise FAA authorizing bill in the Senate does not include user fees–at least until the full Congress passes and the President signs new authorizing legislation–user fees still remain on the table,” said AOPA executive v-p of government affairs Andy Cebula.