By Charles Spence
February 14, 2011
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Reauthorization of the FAA was introduced in the House of Representatives today calling for a four-year period, cuts in funding after fiscal year 2011, and a sunset time for the Essential Air Service to small communities. The bill saves $4 billion compared to current funding levels, requiring the agency to do more with less. FAA has been operating under 17 short-term extensions. Overall funding is set at FY 2008 levels.
This version of reauthorization consolidates facilities, increases private section participation, streamlines some programs, and strengthens oversight of NextGen, the long-touted next generation air transportation system. User fees are not included.
The bill omits some of the controversial provisions preventing agreement with the Senate that have held up long-term reauthorization since 2003. It does contain others not liked by members of the Senate, which is yet to take up the subject in the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Essential Air Service (EAS) is one. This bill puts cuts and restrictions on EAS during the next four years and discontinues the program everywhere except Alaska and Hawaii by Oct. 1, 2014. Sen. John “Jay” Rockefeller (D-WV), has said he “would fight tooth and nail” any attempt to delete EAS.
Examples of the cuts in funding after 2011 are:
Dropping $176 million a year from airport planning and development.
Slashing $100 million a year from facilities and equipment.
Cutting $235 million a year from FAA operations.
$400 million would be cut by sun-setting EAS.
Through the fence agreements at general aviation airports may be continued. Airport owners entering into such agreements will not be considered in violation of the sponsor’s agreement. The bill contains no earmarks.
The bill was introduced by Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Tom Petri (R-Wis.) who chairs the Aviation Subcommittee.
Getting a long-term agreement passed in both houses is job one, Mica said. The House passed bills in the last two Congresses but failed to get agreement with the Senate. Subcommittee Chairman Petri added “we are in a difficult budget environment and can’t do everything we want right now, but getting a long-term reauthorization in place will provide more certainty and consistent funding for more efficient and effective investment.”