Leaders of the Senate commerce committee have proposed a four-year bill to reauthorize federal aviation programs, including $15.8 billion for airport grants. The bill makes some changes in the current aviation financing system, but rejects the more radical moves that the Bush administration proposed earlier this year.
The legislation, which aviation subcommittee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) unveiled on May 3, will help focus the congressional debate this year as lawmakers try to pass a new aviation measure before current programs expire on Sept. 30. The bill carries some clout: It will be cosponsored by full commerce committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii); the committee’s top Republican, Alaska’s Ted Stevens; and the aviation subcommittee’s ranking Republican, Trent Lott of Mississippi.
The Airports Council International-North America was disappointed that the bill doesn’t increase the limit on passenger facility charges for all airports, but only for six airports, under a proposed pilot program. The Bush administration proposed raising the PFC cap to $6 per flight segment, from $4.50 now.
The National Business Aviation Association came out against the measure because of a provision establishing a $25-per-flight fee whose proceeds would finance air traffic control improvements. Passenger, cargo and general aviation aircraft would be subject to the proposed new fee.
For construction industry companies, much of the focus is on funding for the Airport Improvement Program, which provides infrastructure grants. The bill authorizes $3.8 billion for AIP in fiscal year 2008, then increases that amount by $100 million per year, topping out at $4.1 billion in 2011. AIP’s appropriation this year is $3.5 billion.
The Senate bill’s AIP recommendations are well above the amounts the administration’s three-year proposal of $2.75 billion in 2008, $2.9 billion in 2009 and $3.05 billion in 2010.