March 11, 2008
Alarmed by suggestions that Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization will not pass this year, a 35-member coalition of aviation organizations urged legislators to pass a comprehensive, long-term reauthorization bill this year and make it a priority.
The letter to the Senate did not include the Regional Airline Association as a signatory. The major sticking point is how the system will be funded – by increases to the traditional ticket and fuel taxes or by an airline-proposed user fee, which the RAA does not support.
“It is critical for Congress to recognize how important aviation is to our economy and to complete the FAA reauthorization process,” says Airports Council International-North America president Greg Principato, who leads the coalition. The letter was delivered to the full Senate last week.
The Senate Finance Committee passed a funding bill retaining the current ticket tax funding mechanism and increasing existing taxes. The Senate Aviation Operations Safety and Security Subcommittee, including Senator Jay Rockefeller (R-WV), was wedded to the proposed $25 fees favored by the Air Transport Association. However, that may change with the succession of Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) as ranking member, replacing Trent Lott (R-MS).
Aviation analysts found that the new funding mechanism would actually bring in less money than the current mechanism. Related Story RAP also reported leaders in the Senate Appropriations Committee are concerned about whether revenues from any new system would be subject to annual appropriations or designated as mandatory spending as favored by the Senate Finance Committee.
Regional Aviation Partners reported Senator Hutchison opposes the user fee concept and in her new capacity could swing subcommittee support behind the Finance Committee proposal.
While critics charge that passengers pay more than their fair share, commercial aviation makes up the vast majority of air traffic control operations and, indeed, the ATC system gives priority to airlines based on the maximizing throughput. Airlines themselves are guilty of this giving priority to mainline, over regional, jets based on the larger number of passengers that would be inconvenienced with a mainline jet delay.
Thirty-five organizations signed the letter, including the National League of Cities, the National Association of Counties, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Conference of State Legislatures, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, American Association of Airport Executives, National Business Aviation Association, Air Line Pilots Association, Airport Consultants Council, Aerospace Industries Association, Air Carrier Association of America, National Association of State Aviation Officials, National Air Traffic Controllers Association, National Air Transport Association, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, and the Cargo Airline Association.
While individual goals are diverse, the organizations are unified in recognizing the importance of advancing a multiyear FAA reauthorization legislation, the letter to legislators says. The coalition noted the integrity of our aviation systems and the ability to meet future demands are dependent upon the federal government’s success in meeting its obligations to provide adequate infrastructure. The first step in meeting those obligations is for the Senate to advance a comprehensive and long-term FAA reauthorization bill, the letter says.
Source: AMT NEWS