CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
The House is scheduled to consider H.R. 4853 on Wednesday, March 17, 2010, under suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage. H.R. 4853 was introduced on March 16, 2010, by Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN) and referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and Ways and Means Committee, neither of which took any official action.
H.R. 4853 extends certain authorities of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for approximately three months, from March 31, 2010, through July 3, 2010. The bill would extend the FAA's authority to spend money from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF), their authority to charge taxes, and their appropriated spending levels. Under current law, these authorities would expire on March 31, 2009.
The bill extends certain aviation-related taxes that are used to finance the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, including ticket taxes. Specifically, the bill would extend the domestic passenger ticket tax at its current level of 7.5 percent of ticket price, the domestic flight segment tax at its current level of $3.40 per passenger, and the domestic cargo tax at 6.25 percent of the cost of transporting property.
H.R. 4853 authorizes the appropriation of funds for the Airport Improvement Program for Fiscal Year 2010, and extends its program grant authority through July 3, 2010. Additionally, the bill authorizes funding for operations, as well as the Air Navigation Facilities and Equipment. Finally, the bill authorizes funding for FAA research, engineering, and development.
HTF Extension Modifications: The legislation contains provisions which modify the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) extension which passed the House as a provision of H.R. 2847, the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act (HIRE). Under the HIRE Act, $932 million in funds from the Projects of National and Regional Significance (PNRS) program would have been distributed to only 29 states under the pre-existing SAFETEA-LU distribution formulas. H.R. 4853 would adjust that provision to distribute the PNRS funds to every state through the federal highway aid formula.
Under the HIRE Act, funds earmarked for specific states would be disbursed using only six highway formula funding programs. H.R. 4853 would modify the distribution of HTF funds designated for states such that those funds are disbursed using 13 highway formula programs. The formula programs are:
In the 110th and 111th Congresses, the House passed several short-term FAA extensions authorities which were signed into law. The most recent extension, H.R.4217 (P.L. 111-116) was passed in the House on December 8, 2009, by voice vote. Prior to that, H.R. 3607 (P.L. 111-69), passed by voice vote on September 23, 2009, and extended programs and FAA authority through December 31, 2009.
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. The current funding mechanisms for the FAA were set forth by the Vision 100-Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act, which became law in 2003. Vision 100 expired at the end of FY 2007, and the FAA has since been funded by a series of temporary authorizations. Both the House (H.R. 915) and the Senate (S. 1451) have introduced a long-term FAA extension. H.R. 915 passed the House on May 21, 2009, by a vote of 277-136. The Senate has yet to act on either S. 1451 or the House passed extension.
HTF Background: On March 17, 2010, the Senate passed the HIRE Act (H.R. 2847) by a vote of 68-29, and sent the measure, including the surface transportation extension to the president's desk. H.R. 4853 would execute an agreement made between the Chairmen of the applicable House and Senate committees without having had to modify the HIRE Act and thus return the bill to the House for yet another vote.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has not yet produced a cost estimate for this bill as of press time.