WASHINGTON, D.C. — Leaders in the Senate and House Tuesday reached agreement on long-term FAA legislation providing a four-year funding authorization, ending a series of 23 short-term extensions.
Committees from both chambers met to vote whether or not to accept the report of the conference committee. Acceptance means the bill will be given to both houses to accept or reject. It is expected this will happen before the Feb. 17 deadline of the latest short-term extension.
Sen. John (Jay) Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who chairs the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, said “We are in the final stage of signing off on a conference report that I hope will go to the floor for House and Senate passage.” He and Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, commended the members of the committees and their staffs for long and demanding negotiations to reach agreement on issues that have kept the bill from passing since 2007. “The bipartisan, bicameral agreement,” he said, “ensures long-term aviation safety and infrastructure funding for the next four years.”
If the bill is accepted by both chambers, the FAA will be able to go ahead on the Next Generation Air Transportation System, known as NextGen, which Rockefeller called essential, adding that with long-term funding the FAA will be expected to complete the project on schedule and within budget.
He and Mica noted aviation is vital to the nation in many ways, including the biggest exporter of goods. Mica added that this measure is key to advancing the nearly 8% of the U.S. economy impacted by the aviation industry.
In addition to funding NextGen and safety programs through 2015, the bill provides $13.4 billion in funding for airport improvements, $38.3 billion for FAA operations, $672 million for research, engineering and development, and $10.9 million for the FAA’s facilities and equipment. It also restores the essential service program to smaller communities.
Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa) urged his colleagues to “be careful with what we do to general aviation.” He said fees and added taxes would be detrimental to a vital industry and to businesses and communities. Boswell, a pilot and former military helicopter pilot, was one of five Democrats appointed to the conference committee.
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