FAA Furlough Bill Cuts Into Federal Airport Improvement Funds
April 29, 2013
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  • By Austin Alonzo

    The Federal Aviation Administration ended its employee furloughs on Sunday, after Congress passed legislation sending temporary funding to the agency.

    On Saturday, the FAA formally announced that all of its employee furloughs — including air traffic controllers and other staff — have been suspended.

    The bill that ended the suspensions, which President Barack Obama is due to sign on Tuesday, will allow the secretary of the Transportation Department to transfer $253 million into the agency’s operations account.

    The furloughs were the main source of blame for thousands of delays at the nation’s busiest airports, despite being in effect for less than a week.

    Although airport operators may be relieved to hear the furloughs have ended, they may not be as happy to hear the agency will transfer the $253 million from the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program.

    ABC reports that the AIP — a dedicated fund for airport and airfield maintenance and repair paid for through federal passenger fees available to all of the nation’s aviation centers — will be the source of the $253 million.

    Since 2003, AIP funding has been relatively static, with around $3.2 billion to $3.5 billion dedicated to the federal program annually. In fiscal 2012, the program’s budget was $3.289 billion, according to FAA statistics.

    However, in fiscal 2013, the FAA already plans to pare the program’s budget by $926 million while allowing larger airports to charge more in non-federal passenger facility charges, a summary of request document from the Transportation Departmen said.

    With an additional cut of $253 million from the furlough bill, the AIP budget could be reduced to $2.11 billion in fiscal 2013.

    In the short term, this could be a problem for the Johnson County Airport Commission, the body who operates Johnson County Executive Airport and New Century AirCenter.

    Lee Metcalfe, executive director of the commission, said in an email that the airports have planned about $4.8 million in repairs to runways and aprons. About 90 percent of the repair funds were supposed to come from the AIP, Metcalfe said.

    Over the longer term, the AIP cuts could eat into funding available to the Kansas City Aviation Department as the department moves toward building a new Kansas City International Airport at the cost of $1.2 billion.

    AIP funding has been identified as potential funding option for the plan, along with increased passenger and airline fees, parking and concession prices and public revenue bonds.