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Wed, Sep 19, 2007

White House Says It Will Veto H.R. 2881

Says FAA Funding Plan Does Not Do Enough To Curb Delays

Some potential bad news for H.R. 2881, the House plan to reauthorize funding for the Federal Aviation Administration. On Wednesday, the White House threatened to veto the measure should it come across the President's desk.

Dow Jones Newswires reports the Office of Management and Budget said the bill "falls far short" of what the White House believes is necessary to reduce flight delays.

"It would make the status quo worse by undoing progress achieved in prior Congresses," OMB said, adding that President George W. Bush's "senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill."

Sponsored by House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar, D-MN, the bill would authorize funding for the FAA for fiscal years 2008 through 2011. Current funding for the FAA expires at the end of this month.

H.R. 2881 is supported by most general aviation "letter groups", as it does not call for broad "user fees" for pilots of small aircraft. As ANN has reported, the costs of pilot certificates, airworthiness certificates, and aircraft registrations would rise under the House plan, as would the current fuel tax -- 21.8 cents per gallon to 36 cents per gallon for jet fuel, while avgas would see a 25 percent increase, from 19.3 cents per gallon to 24.1 cents per gallon.

Still, that's seen as a far better deal than the FAA's plan -- which calls for sweeping user fees for GA and bizav pilots. It is also considered less onerous than the Senate plan also under consideration, which would place a $25 per-trip charge for IFR flights for many turbine aircraft... though piston aircraft pilots wouldn't be hit with any additional fees.

Two last-minute amendments added to H.R. 2881 during final committee voting in June -- calling for the FAA and controllers to return to the bargaining table in contract talks, and a shifting in labor rules governing local businesses in forming unions -- spelled trouble for White House approval of the House bill early on.

Little was said Wednesday about such bureaucratic minutiae, however... as the OMB chose instead to focus on the hot-button issue of flight delays.

Contrary to assertions by the Government Accountability Office -- that the FAA is funded adequately at current levels to support its planned overhaul of the air traffic control system -- OMB maintains the agency's revenues must be more closely tied to costs, in order for NextGen to succeed.

H.R. 2881 was approved Tuesday by the US House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means, setting the bill up for a full House vote Thursday.

FMI: www.house.gov, www.whitehouse.gov/omb/, www.gao.gov


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