When President Bush signed a bill extending FAA taxes and programs for six months, the whole FAA reauthorization imbroglio landed in the laps of the new President and the new Congress.
The extension, which allows the agency to spend money and collect the taxes that finance the Airport and Airway Trust Fund through March 31, 2009, was signed on September 30, the day that the previous extension was set to expire. The FAA has been operating on a series of short-term extensions since Sept. 30, 2007.
NBAA called on Congress to use the time provided by the new extension to complete work on FAA reauthorization as soon as possible. “NBAA applauds Congress for the progress already made on FAA reauthorization, and this funding extension is important for allowing airport projects and other FAA programming to continue,” said NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen.
“At the same time, we think it’s also important for Congress to send to the President, as soon as possible, a completed reauthorization package that provides long-term stability and builds on the work already being done to modernize America’s aviation system,” he added.
Last year the House passed an FAA reauthorization bill, and it moved to the Senate, where it was under consideration. But that has effectively been pushed off until next year, when there will be a new President and many new members of Congress.
User Fees Temporarily Averted
Both the House and Senate will have to start drafting new legislation to determine how the FAA will be funded and what its budget will be. “We’ve won the battle against user fees for now,” said AOPA president Phil Boyer. “This extension means that aviation fuel taxes remain at their current levels, and the FAA can’t charge any new user fees for the length of this [extension].”
Throughout the summer, the Air Transport Association (ATA), which lobbies for the nation’s airlines, blamed bottlenecks throughout the National Airspace System on a surge in corporate jet and small general aviation traffic. The ATA and the Bush Administration want Congress to finance the FAA and ATC modernization through a series of user fees, a method business aviation interests strongly oppose.
The House sent a resounding “no” to the airlines and the White House when it passed its version of FAA reauthorization. It contained no new user fees and no concessions to the airlines, but it did modestly increase the taxes on jet-A and avgas.
The Senate version originally contained a $25-per-flight fee on jets and most turboprops when it was introduced in May. That was later removed during negotiations between the Senate Transportation and Finance committees. It did include a modest increase on jet fuel but not on avgas.
Upon the signing of the extension, ATA president and CEO James May said, “We need to move wisely toward a bill that modernizes the ATC system, reduces delays and ends the subsidy passengers are providing to private business jets.”
“Regardless of whether Sen. McCain or Sen. Obama is elected president, we know that both are going to be looking for new revenue sources,” said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive v-p of government affairs. “And neither candidate has ruled out user fees for general aviation.”