Congress has approved a three-month extension of Federal Aviation Administration programs, keeping airport construction grants flowing and avoiding furloughs at the agency. Final congressional action came June 26, when the Senate approved the stopgap measure on a voice vote. The extension, the latest of several extensions since last September, next goes to the White House, where President Bush is expected to sign it.
The current temporary FAA bill is schedule to expire June 30. The new one would authorize aviation programs and taxes through Sept. 30, the end of fiscal year 2008. For construction, a key provision is language releasing three months worth of contract authority for FAA's Airport improvement Program construction grants. The new amount approved is about $740 million. Todd Hauptli, American Association of Airport Executives' senior executive vice president, says the bill's passage is "good news because it allows the FAA to get the last three-quarters of a billion dollars [for AIP] out the door in this current fiscal year."
The FAA bill doesn't include a provision adding revenue to the Highway Trust Fund. Construction industry officials had hoped to use the aviation measure as a vehicle for an $8-billion boost for the highway fund, which is projected to show a deficit in 2009.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) made one last attempt June 26 to get a combined aviation-highway measure through, but Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) objected, scuttling that plan. Congress has passed the aviation extensions because it has been unable to complete action on a long-term FAA reauthorization. The most recent multi-year FAA bill lapsed last Sept. 30.