Victory for Cities and Their Airports: House Votes Aviation Fund `off Budget'
Whitman, Cameron, Nation's Cities Weekly
Local and state airport authorities won a major victory last week in the House with passage of the Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (Air-21). Key among provisions is a measure which assures that the Airway Trust Fund will be moved "off budget" and used only to fund aviation projects.
This bill's passage moves the issue of federal under-funding of airports and aviation system one step closer to resolution. Air-21 is the House version of five-year reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The Senate reauthorization bill, S. 82, is expected to go to the Senate floor after the July recess, and, the conference should convene by late July, so a final bill can be signed by the President before the current FAA authorization expires, August 6, 1999.
The two provisions in Air-21 most important to cities and their airport authorities passed with strong bipartisan support. The House agreed that the Airport and Airway Trust Fund would be removed from the general budget, essentially guaranteeing that airport user fees (Passenger Facility Charges [PFC]), collected from enplaning passengers, would be spent solely on aviation projects. Currently, about half the total PFCs collected are spent on aviation projects and the remainder are spent on other federal programs.
The second important provision was agreement to permit local and state airport authorities to increase PFCs from $3.00 per passenger, to as much as $6.00. This would be allowed when federal funding is inadequate to fund needed projects approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.
"This bill begins to address the growing needs in our aviation system," Representative Bud Shuster (R-Pa.), sponsor of Air-21 said. "This bill will help modernize our air traffic control systems, reduce delays, and spur competition. What that means for flyers is safer skies and better service."
During the debate on the House floor, there was strong opposition to taking the Airport and Airway Trust Fund off budget. …