FAA reauthorization bill remains stalled in Senate

 - October 1, 2009, 9:58 AM

With Congress wrangling over health-care reform and the September 30 end of Fiscal Year 2009 fast approaching, at press time it appeared that yet another short-term funding extension would be needed before any FAA reauthorization bill is enacted.

Although the House of Representatives passed its version of reauthorization legislation in May, a companion bill in the Senate has only made it past that body’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. It is being held up
in the Finance Committee, which must weigh in on taxes and fees. But the Finance Committee has been tied up trying to devise a bipartisan health-care reform bill.

American Association of Airport Executives president Charles Barclay urged congressional leaders to act immediately to approve a multi-year FAA reauthorization bill that raises the federal cap on local passenger facility charges (PFC), increases Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding and rejects a controversial aircraft rescue and firefighting proposal that could have a severe impact on airports of all sizes and jeopardize commercial air service to small communities.

In a letter to key congressional leaders early last month, Barclay noted that every month that goes by without an increase in local PFCs and an increase in federal AIP funding–which have been ravaged by construction cost inflation since they were last adjusted in 2000–airports forego millions of dollars that could be used to improve aviation safety and security and create jobs.

“With the clock quickly winding down on yet another short-term extension, it’s high time that Congress finally puts in place a long-term approach to financing the FAA and aviation priorities, including airport development,” he wrote. “By approving a multi-year FAA reauthorization bill that includes a long-overdue adjustment to local passenger facility charges and in increase in federal AIP funding, Congress can expedite critical airport projects that enhance safety, security and capacity while creating thousands of construction jobs across the country.”

In addition to arguing for an increase in the PFC cap to $7.50 with indexing to account for construction cost inflation and an additional $100 million annually in federal AIP funding, Barclay urged Congress to increase funding for small community programs and to reject a controversial proposal that could force airports to comply with excessive National Fire Protection (NFPA) standards that would not improve safety.

Barclay pointed to a recently released independent report that found it would cost airports almost $4 billion in the first year to comply with NFPA standards. “If enacted into law, this unnecessary proposal could dramatically increase staffing, training, infrastructure and equipment require- ments for airports of all sizes
and jeopardizes commercial air service to small communities,”
he warned.