Recognizing the importance of FAA operations to the safety of all aviation, key members of the House leadership introduced legislation on June 22 to keep the agency running even in the face of any future lapse in government funding, a measure supported by AOPA and other aviation groups.
The bipartisan Aviation Funding Stability Act was introduced by Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure; Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), House Aviation Subcommittee chair; Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), member of the House Aviation Subcommittee; and Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
The only marked difference between this legislation and the original 2019 bill is that under the current proposal, the FAA’s authorization to draw from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund during a shutdown will be permitted only for up to 30 days if no appropriations bill is enacted, rather than for an indefinite period. The Airport and Airway Trust Fund, which funds the U.S. national air transportation system, typically generates enough revenue from the domestic passenger ticket tax, commercial fuel tax, general aviation gasoline tax, and cargo tax to sustain FAA programs during a lapse.
“We appreciate Chairman DeFazio’s leadership to ensure our nation’s aviation system remains operational should a government shutdown occur in the future,” said AOPA President Mark Baker.
In the event a shutdown causes a lapse in FAA appropriations, the measure will authorize the FAA to continue to draw from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund to sustain all of the agency's programs. In addition, the proposal allows the entire agency to operate at current funding levels, with no congressional action required, ensuring that all FAA programs function uninterrupted and that all FAA employees are paid for their important work.
“The United States has the safest and most efficient aviation system in the entire world. The system contributes trillions of dollars to our national economy and supports millions of American jobs. We can’t allow for everything to be thrown into chaos in the event of a federal government shutdown,” DeFazio said. “Our bipartisan bill will ensure that the FAA can keep operating without interruption, which is essential to protecting public safety and the livelihoods of aviation workers who keep our country and economy moving.”
“Thanks to a skilled workforce, including the dedicated air traffic controllers and essential safety personnel who work at the FAA, U.S. aviation is the gold standard of flight,” Larsen said. “Enabling the FAA to draw from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund during a funding lapse ensures essential personnel who work under stressful situations continue to get paid, and the largest, busiest and most complex airspace system in the world remains safe and functional for air passengers and crew.”
“Though government shutdowns are rare and typically short, even a lapse in funding of just a few days can cause significant problems for public safety,” Gibbs said. “Regardless of government funding status, air traffic controllers’ justified status as essential workers [means] they have to show up to work. The Aviation Funding Stability Act would ensure that any lapse in appropriations will not lead to any degradation in public safety by giving the FAA the ability to pay air traffic controllers. I thank my colleagues for addressing this issue and urge bipartisan support for this commonsense proposal.”
“When government shutdowns take place, the aviation sector immediately suffers from the consequences of Washington’s dysfunction,” Fitzpatrick said. “I am proud to introduce the bipartisan Aviation Funding Stability Act of 2021, which ensures that FAA programs and personnel will be protected from the effects of a future federal government shutdown. We must do our part to ensure that our aviation workers will receive their pay on time and have the certainty they need to carry out their critical work which makes our airspace the safest in the world.”