The House is gearing up to vote as early as Sept. 20 on a bill to continue Federal Aviation Administration programs for the next four years, including higher funding for airport construction grants and increased fuel taxes for those who fly small planes. Construction and airport groups are marshalling forces against a possible floor amendment that seeks to delete a provision to let airports increase passenger facility charges (PFCs), another source of infrastructure funds.
Final congressional action on the aviation reauthorization measure isn't likely before Sept. 30, the date on which the airport grants and other FAA programs will expire. Congress is expected to pass a short-term extension of the existing programs and taxes to keep funds flowing until the new bill is wrapped up.
The House bill is likely to combine legislation that the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee cleared June 28 and a tax title that the Ways and Means Committee approved Sept. 18. Among other things, it would authorize $15.4 billion over four years for FAA's Airport Improvement Program construction grants. The bill's AIP funding would start at $3.8 billion in fiscal year 2008, then rise by $100 million a year, to $4.1 billion in 2011.
Funds would be subject to annual appropriations. The fiscal 2007 appropriation for AIP is slightly more than $3.5 billion.
The Ways and Means-passed tax measure would increase the tax on jet fuel for "general aviation" users to 36 cents per gallon, from 21.9 cents now, and boost the general aviation gasoline tax to 24.2 cents per gal., from the current 19.4 cents. It also would extend other existing aviation levies, including the tax on passenger tickets, for four more years. Those taxes are set to lapse on Sept. 30.
As a backup, Ways and Means also approved a three-month extension of the existing taxes.
The legislation also would raise the maximum PFCs that airports can charge to $7.00 per flight segment, from $4.50 now. But airport officials say Reps. Nick Lampson (D-Texas) and Ted Poe (R-Texas) are likely to propose an amendment that would strike the PFC boost from the bill.In the Senate, the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee has approved its part of a new aviation bill, with the same funding for AIP as the House transportation panel's measure.