The U.S. Senate passed a bill on Thursday that would provide $16.4 billion for the FAA in Fiscal Year 2017 but would prohibit use of any of those funds to remove the nation’s air traffic control organization from the FAA. Senate passage of the Fiscal Year 2017 transportation, housing and urban development appropriations bill by an 89-8 vote came one day after a House appropriations subcommittee approved its version of the FAA funding bill.
The House must finish its work on the bill and then iron out the differences with the Senate bill before it is finalized. Both versions would fatten the FAA’s budget and would provide more money than requested by the White House.
The White House, however, is recommending a veto of the Senate version over provisions unrelated to the FAA’s budget. As for the FAA budget, the White House said it appreciates the funding the Senate bill would provide but the administration “is concerned with provisions that undermine the FAA's ability to optimize certain services.” The White House, which had proposed cuts in Airport Improvement Program appropriations but increases in the passenger facility charge, added, “The bill also misses an opportunity to improve airport infrastructure by focusing federal grants to support smaller commercial and general aviation airports that do not have access to additional revenue while increasing the passenger facility charge for all commercial airports.”
In addition to the proposed increases in the FAA budget, the bill includes some of the strongest wording yet by Senate appropriations leaders against the House plan to create a user-funded, not-for-profit organization to run the ATC system. “The attempt to remove the air traffic control system from the FAA is fraught with risk, could lead to uncontrollable cost increases to consumers and could ultimately harm users and operators in the system,” the Appropriations Committee said in report language accompanying the funding bill.