WASHINGTON, D.C. — The 21st extension of FAA programs was introduced in the House Friday, July 15, by Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.), Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Tom Petri (R-Wis.), and Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.). It has been over 7 ½ years since the last FAA reauthorization was signed into law.
“House and Senate negotiations on the FAA bill have resulted in significant progress over the last several months,” Mica said. “However, it is time for the Senate to put the safety of the traveling public above their own political posturing and paybacks to the labor movement.”
The FAA reauthorization has been stalled by differences over a number of items, including union organization of certain aviation industry employees and the Essential Air Service program, which subsidizes operations at smaller airports that have airline service.
“The Essential Air Service provisions included in the extension are limited reforms that target the most indefensible of the subsidies,” Petri said. “We in Congress are trying to find a way forward on addressing our deficit and long-term debt issues, but if we can’t put an end to these extravagant subsidies, then we will never be able to rein in spending where really hard decisions are necessary. How can we justify subsidies of over $1,000 per passenger, or subsidies for communities that are located less than 90 miles from a hub airport? Should we be asked to pay, in essence, $10 per mile in one particular case for someone to avoid driving 82 miles to an airport? This is, in fact, some limited common sense reform to end the most extreme of the EAS subsidies.”
The 21st extension, H.R. 2553, maintains current funding levels for the FAA, its employees, and airports across the country. The extension also includes a an Essential Air Service (EAS) reform provision, which the Senate passed unanimously during floor consideration earlier this year. This provision, which was section 420 in the Senate’s FAA bill, would limit EAS eligibility to communities that are located 90 or more miles from a large or medium hub airport. It also includes a waiver should the Secretary of Transportation determine that geographic characteristics result in undue difficulty accessing the nearest medium or large hub. This reform, already approved by the Senate this year, would eliminate 10 EAS communities located within 90 miles of a medium or large hub airport, resulting in $12.5 million in annual savings, House officials said.
The extension also includes a cap on the EAS passenger subsidy provided by the federal government. Setting the subsidy cap at $1,000 per passenger eliminates three additional communities from the EAS program and saves an additional $4.1 million on an annual basis. The current per passenger subsidy rates for these three airports are: Ely, Nevada, $3,720; Alamogordo/Holloman AFB, New Mexico, $1,563; and Glendive, Montana, $1,358.