FAA continues to operate on ‘temporary’ extensions

 - May 4, 2009, 5:45 AM

In late March, Congress approved legislation to extend FAA funding from March 31 until September 30, the end of Fiscal Year 2009. While the extension gives lawmakers more time to work on H.R.915, “The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2009,” Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), the ranking Republican on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, blasted Democrats over continued delays in reauthorizing the FAA.

This latest extension was the sixth short-term extension since September 2007, when the previous funding expired. “With this extension, it will be the longest period of time between FAA reauthorization in decades,” Mica said at a hearing focused on the next-generation ATC system. “Today the House passed another Band-aid extension through September 2009.”

On March 5, the full House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee approved H.R. 915 to provide $70 billion to fund the FAA and infrastructure programs for FY09 through FY2012.

The FAA Reauthorization Act provides $16.2 billion for the Airport Improvement Program, $13.4 billion for FAA facilities and equipment, and $1 billion for research, engineering and development. The funding will enable the FAA to modernize its ATC system and improve capacity at the nation’s airports. In addition, the bill provides $39.9 billion for FAA operations.

The FAA funding bill now moves on to the next committee. While the T&I Committee believes that aviation excise taxes such as those on jet-A and avgas–rather than user fees–should continue to fund the FAA and modernization of the ATC system, taxes are the jurisdiction of the House Ways and Means Committee.

“If there’s anyone to blame for the growing problems at the FAA, it’s Congress,” Mica fumed. “Continued dithering, delaying and dodging our responsibilities potentially dooms the FAA to failure. We should just get the job done.”