Legislation to reauthorize airport grants and other Federal Aviation Administration programs is moving in the Senate. The Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on May 16 approved a four-year bill that would increase funding for FAA's Airport Improvement Program, which provides grants for runways and other construction work.

The committee's measure, introduced by aviation subcommittee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), would authorize $15.8 billion for AIP over the term of the bill. Funding would start at $3.8 billion in fiscal 2008, then increase by $100 million annually, topping out at $4.1 billion in 2011. Authorizations would be subject to annual appropriations. The 2007 AIP appropriation is $3.5 billion.

But the committee's bill freezes passenger facility charges, another airport construction funding source, at the current level of $4.50 per flight segment, except for a six-airport test program. Construction and airport interests want to see a hike in PFCs.

By a slender 12-11 vote, the panel defeated an amendment offered by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) to delete a provision establishing a new fee of $25 per aircraft flight. The proceeds would help finance new air traffic control technology.

Still to come is action by the Senate Finance Committee to extend or change federal aviation taxes. The Bush administration has proposed ending the current 7.5% tax on passenger tickets and boosting fuel taxes sharply for general aviation users.

In the House, transportation and infrastructure committee leaders have not yet introduced their FAA bill.