The House has passed an extension to keep the FAA running through July 15 and authorizing the agency to continue collecting excise taxes on fuel through March 2017. The unusual move to extend the agency’s taxing authority beyond the authorization deadline was designed to ensure the FAA has a steady stream of revenue in case Congress cannot reach agreement on an FAA reauthorization package ahead of upcoming elections.
H.R. 4721, the Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2016, passed the House March 14 on a voice vote. The Senate is expected to take up the legislation later this week before taking a two-week recess beginning March 18. The FAA’s current funding extension expires March 31.
“There are a lot of moving parts right now between extending the FAA’s current funding and efforts to move a full reauthorization package,” said Jim Coon, AOPA senior vice president of government affairs. “But both the House and Senate have signaled their strong desire to reach an agreement on FAA reauthorization and that’s a hopeful sign. The FAA needs stability to effectively implement new and ongoing programs.”
The Senate Commerce Committee is expected to take up S. 2658, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2016, later this week. Unlike the extension, which essentially maintains the status quo, S. 2658 would set new priorities and funding levels for the FAA.
Among the provisions in the reauthorization package is third class medical reform language that passed the full Senate in December as part of the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2. In addition, the legislation would authorize annual increases in Airport Improvement Program funding, streamline certification for light GA aircraft, support a transition to unleaded aviation fuel, and make it easier to install modern safety equipment in legacy aircraft.
Unlike an earlier six-year bill that stalled in the House, the Senate reauthorization proposal would last only 18 months and does not include user fees for GA, instead relying on the current system of excise taxes on fuel.