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Congress Secures Funding for FAA
December 22, 2015 - Last week, Congress passed a $1.1 trillion spending package that funds the federal government through next September. Included in the large omnibus spending bill was the approval of more than $16 billion in funding for the FAA. The bill also included several million dollars in tax breaks for aviation businesses.
Several vital FAA programs will receive significant funding with very few cuts to the agency’s operations. Congress set aside $2.9 billion for NextGen funding, a program that has experienced both cost overruns and congressional funding shortfalls over the course of its long implementation. Funding for hiring air traffic controllers, as well as more than $3 billion for the Airport Improvement Program, were also included in the bill. EAA was pleased that Congress also approved $7 million to continue funding the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative, a program that seeks to find a viable replacement for 100LL avgas and one in which EAA has been heavily involved.
Though the FAA now has the funding to operate through fiscal year 2016, this “appropriations” bill should not be confused with “authorization.” The omnibus bill gives the FAA funding to pay for its ongoing operations and sign contracts, among other business, but an overarching “reauthorization” bill must still be passed by Congress to set longer-term policies and funding limits for the agency’s programs. The FAA’s last five-year authorization expired in September 2015, which Congress extended with a six month stop-gap measure. Work on FAA reauthorization will likely begin in early 2016 with a proposal to privatize the air traffic system being at the center of debate. EAA’s advocacy staff is gearing up for a busy year ahead addressing FAA reauthorization and the proposals included within it.