GAO warns of Aviation Trust Fund shortfall

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) warned recently that less excise tax money than had been forecast is being collected to feed the Airport and Airway Trust Fund. At the same time, estimates of future revenues are lower because of a drop in airline passenger traffic, fares and fuel consumption, all of which provide money for the Trust Fund.

In fact, the uncommitted balance in the trust fund has been decreasing since Fiscal Year 2001. For the short run, however, less excise tax revenue will reduce the balance even farther and could affect funding for FAA programs this year and next, the GAO report said. In the longer run, if declining in Trust Fund revenue continues, Congress may have to cut spending on FAA operations and capital projects, or increase revenues for the trust fund by introducing new fees, increasing taxes or increasing the portion of the FAA’s funding provided by the General Fund. The GAO also called for “timely” reauthorization of the FAA, lest continued short-term funding measures delay key capital projects.

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