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"House Committee Approves DOT Spending Bill With $3.6 Billion for AIP"


Tuesday, June 21, 2004

Airport Legislative Alliance
Airport Alert



To:                   AAAE/ACI-NA Chief Executives and Airport Operators on E-Mail Distribution


From:                Joel Bacon, 703-575-2478


Re:                   House Committee Approves FY 2006 DOT Spending Bill with $3.6 Billion for AIP

                                                 Measure Likely to be Considered on House Floor Next Week


                        Date:                June 21, 2005 – Volume 11, Number 32 – 7:15 p.m.  


After a full day of debate, the House Appropriations Committee has just approved its version of the fiscal year 2006 spending bill that funds the Department of Transportation, the Federal Aviation Administration and a myriad of other federal agencies.  The bill approved today includes great news on a number of airport priorities, including $3.6 billion for the Airport Improvement Program – a record amount that is $600 million above the President’s request.  Additionally, the bill includes a provision requiring the FAA to pay for the space it uses in airport-owned facilities and, despite serious budget constraints, provides healthy funding levels for a number of airport priorities including air traffic control modernization, the Airport Cooperative Research Program, the Small Community Air Service Development Program, the Contract Tower Program and Essential Air Service.  A full summary of the bill follows below. 


During consideration of the bill today, there were a number of attempts to re-direct resources to Amtrak, housing, tax law compliance, election assistance, and other programs that were viewed as under-funded by some committee members.  In the end, most amendments were defeated on largely party-line votes.  The committee did, however, approve on a 30 to 28 vote an amendment offered by Committee Ranking Democrat David Obey (D-WI) authorizing a Government Accountability Office study into the possible benefit that re-regulating the airline industry could have in reducing potential airline pension defaults.  The committee also approved an amendment by John Peterson (R-PA) encouraging DOT to implement a code-sharing pilot program – authorized in VISION-100 – that would require major air carriers serving a large hub to participate in multiple code-share arrangements with regional carriers serving Essential Air Service communities.      


Although no amendments shifting resources away from AIP or other airport priorities were adopted today, it is clear that we could become a target as the bill moves to the floor of the House of Representatives and to the Senate.  In light of extremely tight budget numbers and a wide range of competing programs – in addition to the Department of Transportation, the roughly $135 billion bill funds the Treasury Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the federal court system, the District of Columbia, and a handful of independent agencies – we will have to remain fully engaged to ensure that funding for AIP and other key programs are not used to pay for other budget items. 


Summary of House Committee-Passed FY 2006 DOT Spending Bill


·         Airport Improvement Program:  The subcommittee-approved bill provides $3.6 billion in funding for AIP – a record amount and a full $600 million above the President’s request.  Of the $3.6 billion provided for AIP, $71.3 million is designated for administration of the program; $10 million is provided for the Airport Cooperative Research Program; and $20 million is provided for the Small Community Air Service Development Program.  The bill prohibits the use of AIP funds for “the replacement of baggage conveyor systems, reconfiguration of terminal baggage areas, or other airport improvements that are necessary to install bulk explosive detection systems.”   


·         FAA Facilities and Equipment:  The measure includes $3.05 billion for the F&E account, which funds air traffic control modernization programs and other key facilities and initiatives.  The $3.05 billion figure is $600 million above the President’s requested level of $2.448 billion and more than $500 million above last year’s funding level.    


·         Cost-Free Space:  Once again, the bill includes the general provision prohibiting the FAA from requiring airports to provide space free of charge in airport-owned buildings.  


·         Small Community Air Service Development Program:  The bill provides $20 million for the program funded through AIP as mentioned above.


·         Essential Air Service:  The bill provides $104 million for EAS -- $54 million above the President’s request.  The measure also prohibits DOT from implementing a cost-share requirement for local communities.  During debate today, the committee adopted language encouraging DOT to implement a code-share pilot program as mentioned above.  


·         Contract Tower Program:  The bill provides $90.5 million for the Contract Tower Program and $7.5 million for the Contract Tower Cost-Sharing Program. 


·         Airport Cooperative Research Program:  The bill fully funds the Airport Cooperative Research Program at $10 million with the funds coming from AIP as mentioned above.  You may recall that it took a concerted effort last year to gain $3 million for the ACRP, so the $10 million figure is a significant increase.      


·         FAA Operations:  The bill provides $8.19 billion for FAA operations.  This level is just below the President’s request and more than $480 million above last year’s funding level.  


·         Research, Engineering and Development:  The bill provides $130 million for R, E, &D –- the amount requested by the President.  The bill provides the full $16 million requested by the President for the Energy and Environment account within R, E, &D.       


·         Nighttime Tower Closings: The bill approved today does not address reported plans by the FAA to close certain air traffic control towers to nighttime operations.  However, a number of members have expressed concerns about these closures and amendments prohibiting FAA from moving forward remain a possibility as the bill moves forward.


·         War Risk Insurance for Air Carriers: The bill extends the current provisions of war risk insurance, including current premium price caps, for one year.


·         Flight Service Stations:  The bill provides the $150 million the Administration requested for competitive sourcing for flight service station transition costs.    


What’s Next?

The House of Representatives is expected to consider the bill next week.  The Senate has yet to consider its version of the bill, but mid to late July look likely for subcommittee consideration. 


A Final Thought

Given the budget situation in Washington, the fact that we have managed to secure full funding for AIP at $600 million above the President’s requested level at this point is significant.  As we have repeatedly stated, however, we still have a long way to go in the process and efforts will undoubtedly emerge to shift resources within the bill.  In the Senate, the budget situation on the DOT bill is even tighter, and the staff has let us know that the fight for limited resources will be fierce.  Needless to say, we need to stay engaged with lawmakers and continue to make the case for AIP funding and other airport priorities.

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