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Taxes, user fees still up in air for 2008

Congress passed and President Bush signed on Dec. 20 a $14.6 billion appropriations bill for the FAA for fiscal year 2008. But that doesn’t mean the FAA funding battle is over. Far from it.

That’s because the Senate has yet to pass an FAA authorization bill that would set aviation taxes – and possibly user fees—for the next four years. The way things sit right now, the government’s authority to collect aviation taxes—and spend from the aviation trust fund—will expire at the end of February. And even though Congress appropriated $3.5 billion for the Airport Improvement Program, it did not give the FAA the authority to issue new contracts to actually spend any of that money on airports.

“The Senate must put FAA funding at the top of its agenda next year,” said AOPA President Phil Boyer. “We can’t begin to resolve the issues of airport congestion and air traffic control modernization until the Senate passes an authorization and tax bill to complement the House FAA funding bill (H.R.2881) passed in September.”

The FAA appropriations bill was rolled into the so-called omnibus funding bill for all federal agencies. Congress resorted to the omnibus bill because of disputes with the White House over the size of the budgets for various agencies, and funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As part of the omnibus appropriations bill, Congress extended the existing FAA authorization until Feb. 29, 2008. If Congress doesn’t act by then, the federal government would have to stop collecting aviation fuel taxes and passenger ticket taxes. No new money would flow into the aviation trust fund. The FAA wouldn’t shut down, but would likely have to scale back to its core functions.

“AOPA will jump into the new year with a renewed lobbying effort to encourage the Senate to finalize an FAA funding bill without any user fees,” said Boyer.

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