CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Wednesday, July 20, 2011, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 2553, the Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2011, Part IV, under a rule. H.R. 2553 was introduced by Rep. John Mica (R-FL) on July 15, 2011, and was referred to the House Committees on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Committee on Ways and Means. Neither Committee took any official action.
FAA Temporary Extension
H.R. 2553 would extend, through September 16, 2011, the authorities of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which are currently set to expire on July 22, 2011.
The bill would extend the authority to expend funds from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund through September 17, 2011. The bill would extend taxes on aviation fuel, domestic and international ticket taxes, and taxes on cargo shipped by air. Currently, these taxes are set to expire July 22, 2011.
The bill would authorize to be appropriated $3.38 billion for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) for the period beginning on October 1, 2010, and ending September 16, 2011. On an annualized basis, the bill would authorize approximately $3.5 billion in AIP contract authority for FY 2011.
Essential Air Services Reform
H.R. 2553 would modify the funding formula for the Essential Air Services (EAS) program which gives subsidies to air carriers that provide air service to certain rural communities. Specifically, the bill would restrict funding to airports located more than 90 miles from the nearest medium or large hub airport. In addition, the legislation would prohibit subsidies for areas with an average subsidy per passenger of more than $1,000 during the most recent fiscal year. The bill would provide an exception from the new requirements for recipients located in Alaska and would authorize the Transportation Department to provide waivers if it determines that the geographic characteristics of a location result in undue difficulty in accessing the nearest medium or large-hub airport.
The last long-term authorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), known as the Vision 100—Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act, was approved in 2003 and expired at the end of FY 2007. Since that time, the FAA has operated under a series of temporary extensions. In the 110th and 111th Congresses, the House passed several short-term FAA extensions which were signed into law. The most recent extension, H.R. 2279 in the 112th Congress (PL 112-7), was passed by the House of Representatives on June 24, 2011, by unanimous consent.
In addition, the House approved a long-term FAA extension, H.R. 658, the FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2011, which would reauthorize FAA operations, contract authority and taxing ability through FY 2014. The long-term FAA reauthorization was approved in the House on April 1, 2011, by a vote of 223 – 196. The Senate amended the language of H.R. 658 and replaced the text of the bill with a Senate substitute. This short-term extension would allow the FAA to continue operations while the two bills are reconciled.
The FAA is an agency within the Department of Transportation that oversees and regulates the nation’s aviation system. The Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF), created by the Airport and Airway Revenue Act of 1970, provides funding for the nation’s aviation system through several aviation excise taxes. Funding currently comes from collections related to passenger tickets, air cargo excise taxes, passenger flight segments, and aviation fuels, among other sources.
Essential Air Services: The Essential Air Service (EAS) program provides subsidies to air carriers that provide air service to certain rural communities. Under current law, $77 million is authorized to be appropriated for the EAS program each year in perpetuity. H.R. 658, the long-term FAA reauthorization approved by the House on April 1, 2011, would phase out and sunset the program by providing an authorization of $98 million for the program in FY 2011, $60 million in 2012, and $30 million in 2013. No appropriations would be authorized after 2013. According to CBO, the bill would save $302 million over the 2011-2016 period by phasing out EAS.
A CBO estimate for H.R. 2553 was not available as of press time.