Back in the 1700s the poet Robert Burns wrote, “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men gang aft agley an’ lea’ us naught but grief an’ pain for promis’d joy!” The 108th Congress “scheme” (plan) to have appropriations bills for the 13 government agencies wrapped up and signed off by October 1, the start of the new fiscal year, went “gang aft agley” (went awry), for only three of the 13 bills made it through the process.
Presidency of George W. Bush
When the FAA unveiled its Fiscal Year 2009 budget, it was another sign that the budget battle and the threat of user fees is far from over. “What part of ‘no’ doesn’t the White House understand?” asked AOPA president Phil Boyer. “They just changed the dates and submitted essentially the same proposal as last year–a proposal soundly rejected by the general aviation community, the House and the Senate.”
President Bush has appointed Douglas Lavin as FAA assistant administrator of the newly created Office of International Aviation, and Sharon Pinkerton as assistant administrator of the Office of Aviation Policy, Planning and Environment.
• Congress enjoyed a recess for the Thanksgiving holiday period, but not all members of the Senate availed themselves of the break. The Constitution gives a President authority to make appointments to top federal positions without Senate approval if that chamber is adjourned for more than three days without reconvening on the fourth.
• One of the annual Washington rituals calls for the President to send Congress an administration budget proposal for the next fiscal year. President Bush followed through with a FY2007 plan asking for $27.7 trillion. The proposed budget would increase defense spending by 7 percent and cut some $15 billion from 141 programs in nine of 15 Cabinet agencies.
When Congress returned from its August recess, both houses set about to debate what to do about the declining budget surplus and what to do about spending.
“In Washington, D.C., no bad idea ever dies,” National Association of State Aviation Officials president and CEO Henry Ogrodzinski said of aviation user fees late last month at the American Association of Airport Executives General Aviation Issues Conference in Naples, Fla. “Even if a good [FAA reauthorization] bill passes this time, user fees will still come up next time.”
The Bush Administration has proposed a $14 billion reauthorization budget for the FAA for fiscal year 2004, taking a bigger bite from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund but calling for no new user fees. The FAA spending plan is part of the overall Transportation Department budget package, and is up slightly from the $13.6 billion requested for FY 2003.
By the middle of last month, both houses of Congress had given preliminary approval to separate legislation that would reauthorize appropriations for the FAA. The House version is titled the Flight 100–Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act (Flight 100-CARA) and covers the next four fiscal years, while the Senate version is named the Aviation Investment and Revitalization Vision Act (AIR-V) and would be for three years.