This morning the Bush administration released its budget proposal for the fiscal year beginning October 1. The administration plan, which must be approved by Congress, would fund the FAA at $13.3 billion, the level established by last year's AIR-21 legislation that unlocked the aviation trust fund. In February, AOPA successfully turned back an effort by the Office of Management and Budget to underfund AIR-21. However, the administration continues to keep its options open with regard to user fees by proposing to delete AOPA-supported language prohibiting taxpayer dollars from being used to develop user fee plans not previously approved by Congress. The administration also reiterated its desire to "examine the success that various nations, including Canada, have experienced with individual ATC owned and operated by private companies." The budget proposal allows a 22-percent increase in "administrative" costs and shortfalls in air service subsidies to be taken away from funding airports.
Other provisions being examined by AOPA include a "transfer authority" proposal that could take up to $300 million from modernization programs and runways and transfer it into salaries. In addition there is concern that, as a result of last week's votes in the Senate on the budget, a combination of the administration's proposed tax cuts and the Senate's proposed increases in discretionary spending could leave the AIR-21 funding levels vulnerable to a last-minute budget "deal."