The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2009 (H.R. 915) on March 5. The funding bill now moves to the next committee.
“This is an important first step, and we strongly support this bill,” said AOPA President Craig L. Fuller immediately after the vote, “but with the Obama administration’s call for user fees we know we have a rough flight ahead of us.”
The Transportation Committee reiterated that the time-proven system of aviation excise taxes, not user fees, should continue to fund the FAA and its modernization of the air traffic control system. However, taxes are the jurisdiction of the Ways and Means Committee.
Last year that committee accepted the recommendation of the Transportation Committee and passed a bill that would have funded the FAA from fuel (and other) taxes paid into the aviation trust fund, but the House bills stalled when they reached the Senate, which wanted user fees.
This year, the Ways and Means Committee has indicated that it won’t even begin to consider FAA funding measures until after it can examine the President’s budget. The White House says the budget’s details will be on Capitol Hill by early April.
FAA funding has continued under a series of temporary measures, the latest of them set to expire at the end of March. During the March 5 mark-up hearing on H.R. 915, Transportation Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) said he would, reluctantly, support another temporary funding extension until the end of September to allow airport grant funding (the Airport Improvement Program) to continue through the construction season. However, both Oberstar and aviation subcommittee chairman Jerry Costello (D-Ill.) said they would prefer quick passage of H.R. 915.
“We need to be maintaining and upgrading facilities to make our economy as efficient as possible,” said Costello.