CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
The House is scheduled to consider H.R. 4915 on Wednesday, March 24, 2010, under suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage. H.R. 4915 was introduced on March 23, 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.
FAA Extension: H.R. 4915 extends certain authorities of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for approximately three months, from March 31, 2010, through July 4, 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. 4915 authorizes the appropriation of funds for the Airport Improvement Program for Fiscal Year 2010, and extends its program grant authority through July 4, 2010. Funding for the program would be calculated on an annualized basis as if the total amount for FY 2010 was $4 billion, and then reduced by 11 percent. 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 Senate-passed version of 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 pre-existing the SAFETEA-LU distribution formulas. The underlying legislation would adjust that provision to distribute the PNRS funds to every state through the federal highway aid formula.
Under the Senate passed version of the HIRE Act, funds earmarked for specific states would be disbursed using only six highway formula funding programs. H.R. 4915 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:
FAA Background: 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.
On March 17, 2010, the House passed H.R. 4853, an almost identical Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act, by voice vote. The underlying legislation is nearly identical to H.R. 4853, but alters the formula for calculating funding for the Airport Improvement Program. Under H.R. 4853, the annualized basis for FY 2010 funding for the program would have been reduced by 89/365 or 24 percent (representing the number of days the program was funded through extensions). H.R. 4915 would lower the reduction in the annualized funding basis to 11 percent.
HTF Background: On March 18, 2010, the president signed the HIRE Act (H.R. 2847), including the surface transportation extension through December 31, 2010. The modifications in H.R. 4915 would reconcile an agreement regarding funding formulas made between the Chairmen of the applicable House and Senate committees that could not have been made legislatively without altering the bill and requiring additional consideration in the House and Senate.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has not yet produced a cost estimate for this bill as of press time.