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"US House passes FAA bill objected to by airlines and White House"



Monday, September 24, 2007

US House passes FAA bill objected to by airlines and White House
By Aaron Karp
Air Transport World


The US House of Representatives last week passed an FAA reauthorization bill
that provides more than $67 billion to fund the agency's operations through
2011, but the legislation contains a number of provisions objected to by the
White House and airlines and that puts it in conflict with a proposed Senate
version.

The bill, which passed by a vote of 267-151, would increase fuel taxes on
airlines by 25% to 24.2 cents per gal. and raise the cap on passenger
facility charges from $4.50 to $7. It would not raise user fees on corporate
and general aviation, something for which carriers have lobbied strongly,
and would force FAA to reopen negotiations with air traffic controllers on a
new labor contract.

While airports applauded the legislation, it was blasted by airlines and the
Bush Administration as a "status quo" bill that would do little to finance a
planned shift to satellite-based ATC and that fails to shift more of the
burden for funding the system to users other than airlines.

"The House bill does little to promote NextGen [ATC] or correct the subsidy
of corporate jets by airline passengers," Air Transport Assn. President and
CEO James May said. "Even worse, it imposes a $2.2 billion tax increase on
passengers in the form of airport facilities charges."

The White House Office of Management and Budget, in a letter sent to House
members before the bill passed, said it would recommend a presidential veto
if the legislation were to arrive on President Bush's desk in its current
form. OMB said the House bill would "make the status quo worse" and "falls
far short" of making necessary funding reforms. It called the PFC cap rise
"excessive and unjustified." 

The Senate is expected to begin debate soon on its version of FAA
reauthorization legislation. Key lawmakers predicted that differences among
the House, Senate and White House, which would have to be reconciled to make
the legislation law, will be too much to overcome by the Sept. 30 deadline
when the current FAA authorization expires. House Transportation and
Infrastructure Committee Ranking Republican John Mica said reauthorization
is "dead in its tracks."

A continuing resolution could be passed to keep the agency running beyond
the deadline, pushing off decisions on reforming FAA. A broader budget
standoff in Washington between the White House and Democratic-controlled
Congress further complicates the debate over FAA financing.

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