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"AIP cut to airports looms"
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Fund cut to airports looms
TRAVEL: Long Beach among facilities urging higher passenger fee.
By Kristopher Hanson
The Long Beach (CA) Press-Telegram
LONG BEACH - Airport directors across the country, including Long Beach's
Mario Rodriguez, are upset about a proposed cut in airport funding by
The House of Representative's Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
recently included a 5 percent cut in funds from the federal Airport
Improvement Program, which pays for aviation safety and security at fields
across the country.
Congressman John Mica, R-Florida, has proposed the cuts as part of an
extension of the Federal Aviation Administration's budget, which has been
the focal point of austerity measures in Washington for months.
Another stalemate over federal airport funding in August furloughed
thousands of FAA workers and delayed important airfield improvement projects
at Long Beach Airport by about six weeks.
At the time, the airport was awaiting more than $1 million in funds for
upgrades to runways, taxiways and jet ramps.
Rodriguez, who sits on the Environmental Affairs Committee at the Airports
Council International - North America, said the FAA budget fight isn't over,
and it could affect Long Beach.
After the summer debates, Congress extended FAA funding by just four months.
"In light of certain facts that include the federal government's inability
to solidify a long-term funding strategy for our national air-transport
assets, culminating in the recent shut down of the FAA, it may be a good
idea to allow airports to have the funds available to keep these vital
economic tools working," Rodriguez said.
Airports are also asking Congress to lift restrictions on passenger facility
charges, currently capped at $4.50 and charged to ticket holders on each leg
of a trip.
The fee hasn't been lifted in more than a decade.
"It is simply to allow our nation's airports the ability to adjust the
current passenger facility charge that has not been adjusted in many years
and is now woefully inadequate to fund infrastructure investments," said
Rodriguez, who is overseeing a $136 million modernization of Long Beach
ACI executives say airports need more flexibility in passenger fees to fund
runway, terminal, parking, concourse and other projects, and to fully fund
public safety measures.
"If given the opportunity to do so by Congress, airports could immediately
begin raising their own revenue through this local fee, paid only by
passengers who use the airport," said Greg Principato, president of ACI-NA.
On the funding cuts, Principato was even more direct.
"The airport community is gravely concerned about any cuts to the Airport
Improvement Program, which has been level funded since fiscal year 2006,"
Principato said. "It simply doesn't make any sense at a time when both
parties are focused on creating jobs to cut a program like AIP that is a
proven jobs creator ... across the country."
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