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Wed, Dec 09, 2009

U.S. House Of Representatives Extends FAA Funding Through March

Bill Still To Be Considered In The U.S. Senate

It's another chapter in the seemingly never-ending saga of the FAA re-authoriztion bill. With a voice vote Tuesday, the House of Representatives approved HR 4217 to extend current Federal aviation programs and taxes through the end of March, 2010.

Passage of the “Fiscal Year 2010 Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act, Part II,” gives the House and Senate additional time to act on a multi-year authorization package. The current authorization was set to expire in 2007, but has been extended several times. The current extension is due to expire December 31, when Congress will be out of session.

"Although the House passed an FAA reauthorization bill last Congress, the Senate did not, resulting in the need for a series of short-term extension acts that, unfortunately, continues to this day," said Representative James Oberstar (D-MN) Chair of the House Transportation Committee. "(T)he Other Body has been unable to complete action on a long-term FAA reauthorization bill. Given that the current authority for aviation programs expires on December 31, an extension of current law is necessary to continue financing of aviation programs until a multi-year reauthorization bill can be completed. H.R. 4217 provides a three-month extension of aviation programs, through March 31, 2010."

Representative Jerry Costello (D-IL), Chair of the Aviation Subcommittee, echoed Oberstar's comments. "The FAA has been operating under a string of short-term extensions for over two years since the last FAA reauthorization bill expired," he said in the well of the House. "Short-term extensions and uncertain funding levels can be disruptive to the aviation industry and communities because they do not allow them to plan for long-term growth. Frankly, every month that goes by without a long-term FAA authorization is a lost opportunity to improve aviation safety, security, and to create and maintain jobs around the country."

The previous long-term FAA reauthorization act, the Vision 100–Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act (P.L. 108-176) expired on September 30, 2007. The House passed H.R. 915, the “FAA Reauthorization Act of 2009”, which reauthorizes FAA programs for fiscal years (FY) 2010 through 2012, on May 21, 2009. 

H.R. 4217 provides $2 billion in contract authority for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) through the end of March. This $2 billion will enable airports to move forward with important safety and capacity projects. When annualized, this level of AIP funding equals $4 billion, which is consistent with both the House and Senate FAA reauthorization bills, and the FY 2010 Concurrent Budget Resolution.

The bill also authorizes appropriations for FAA Operations, Facilities and Equipment (F&E), and Research, Engineering, and Development (RE&D) programs, consistent with average funding levels of the FY 2010 House-approved appropriations bill and the Senate-approved appropriations bill.

In addition, H.R. 4217 extends the aviation excise taxes through March 31, 2010. These taxes are necessary to support the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, which funds a substantial portion of the FAA’s budget. With an uncommitted cash balance of just $251 million at the end of FY 2009, any lapse in the aviation taxes could put the solvency of the Trust Fund at risk.

In addition to extending the aviation taxes, H.R. 4217 extends the FAA’s authority to make expenditures from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund through March 2010.

FMI: http://transportation.house.gov/

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