Senate passes FAA Reauthorization bill, next stop Conference Committee
The US Senate passed its version of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Reauthorization legislation on 22-Mar-2010 – The Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act – paving the way for, perhaps, faster deployment of NextGen programs. This is more progress on reauthorization than has been made in three years.
“We are extremely pleased with the passage of this bill which takes a number of critical steps needed for the acceleration of NextGen,” said GAMA’s President and CEO, Pete Bunce. “We commend Senators Rockefeller (D-WV), Hutchison (R-TX), Dorgan (D-ND), DeMint (R-SC), Baucus (D-MT) and Grassley (R-IA) for their leadership and dedicated work in reauthorizing and improving FAA programs. We look forward to working with them and the aviation leadership in the House to send a final FAA reauthorization bill to President Obama for his signature.”
The American Association of Airport Executives hailed the passage saying it bring “airports, the aviation industry, and the traveling public one step closer to achieving important changes that will enhance aviation safety, increase airport capacity, improve small community air service and create much-needed jobs across the country,” said AAAE President Charles Barclay.
"After two-and-a-half years of temporary program extensions, we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel in terms of achieving enactment of a constructive, multi-year FAA reauthorization bill," Barclay said.
The Senate and House must now put the two different legislative package through a Conference Committee to reconcile the differences. Of course, airport executives hope that reconciliation will include the USD3 increase to USD7.50 on local passenger facility charges (part of the House bill), which also indexes the PFC to inflation of construction costs. Execs say it is critical to making up for construction inflation since it was last imposed several years ago.
The House bill also includes a controversial Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting provision opposed by airport executives that could impose significant costs on airports with little, if any, demonstrable safety benefit. Airports also want the permanent elimination the Alternative Minimum Tax penalty on airport private activity bonds.
"The inability of Congress to reach agreement on a long-term FAA bill for an extended period has come at a heavy price in terms of lost federal resources for the Airport Improvement Program and foregone revenue that an increased PFC could create," Barclay said. "Given the enormous and well documented needs that exist at airports across the country, we can't afford to wait any longer to make the investments necessary to meet the challenges of today and to prepare for the challenges of tomorrow."
Since expiration of the last multi-year FAA Reauthorization bill in 2007, the agency has been operating under the terms of a series of short-term program extensions, the latest of which expires at the end of the month. House leaders have already approved legislation extending programs until early July, and Barclay called for Senate leaders to follow suit in order to give Congress time to complete action on a multi-year bill.