Industry officials are disappointed a newly approved bill lets the Federal Aviation Administration shift construction funds to pay for the cancelled furloughs of air traffic controllers.
The Senate passed the bill on April 25, the day it was introduced, and the House cleared it on April 26. President Obama is expected to sign the bill.
The bipartisan action was sparked when the FAA, citing mandatory budget sequester cuts, began furloughs on April 21, which caused flight delays. Under the sequester, which took effect on March 1, most FAA accounts, including operations, were pared 5% for 2013.
FAA's Airport Improvement Program (AIP), which provides construction grants, totals $3.5 billion in 2013. AIP had been exempt from the sequester because it is financed from the aviation trust fund. But the new bill undoes AIP's 2013 exemption, letting FAA transfer up to $253 million to its operations account. AIP is expected to provide most of that amount.
Todd Hauptli, American Association of Airport Executives senior lobbyist, says, "While we're certainly pleased to see that Congress intervene to end the furloughs, we do not support the use of capital funds to pay for operational expenses." Brian Deery, senior director of the Associated General Contractors highway and transportation division, says,"We're not happy about it. We're never happy when they take money out of infrastructure."