Congress on Tuesday sent a bill to President Bush that will continue to fund the Federal Aviation Administration until March 31, 2009—and does so without approving user fees for air traffic control services and without nearly quadrupling the fuel taxes paid by general aviation as originally requested by the administration.
“That means we can declare victory in the battle against user fees, at least in 2008,” said AOPA President Phil Boyer.
With the latest extension of the FAA funding bill set to expire at the end of September, with Congress wrangling over a $700 billion bail-out bill for U.S. financial institutions, and with legislators wanting to get out of town to campaign, Congress decided the FAA funding issue could wait until next year.
On Sept. 23, the House of Representatives passed a bill that extends the current aviation taxes on fuel and airline tickets until March 31, 2009. It gave the FAA the authority to spend nearly $7.9 billion over the next six months. That’s roughly what congressional appropriators said the FAA should get for that time period had a real funding bill already been in place. The Senate quickly confirmed the House action the same day.
If President Bush signs the bill, taxes would continue at the same level as now. The FAA would continue to spend money at about the same level. Airports could continue to move forward with projects under the Airport Improvement Program. And all of that would happen without user fees—at least through next March.
“But it also means we start the battle anew in 2009,” said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. “A new Congress means new FAA funding bills will have to be introduced. And the user fee proponents haven’t gone away. With rising deficits, the federal government has even more pressures on its spending and the need for new revenue sources.”