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Insta-CoGo: Funding the FAA

Cindy Loose

America's air traffic control system might finally get a much-needed update. A bill expected to pass the Senate as early as tonight would -- in its current incarnation -- devote $400 million to modernizing the air traffic control system.

The bill in question reauthorizes spending for the FAA and has been stalled for months as various interest group tangle over what should be in the bill. The Air Transport Association, which represents commercial airlines, seems to have won its argument that passenger fees shouldn't be increased. A House version of the bill would have increased a tax known as the Passenger Facility Charge to a maximum of $7 per passenger -- a $2.50 increase. Given the desperate financial situation of the airlines, and passengers' sensitivity to price hikes, that idea seems to have fallen to the wayside.

There is still one major sticking point, though: The Bush administration threatens to veto the bill if it limits the administration's ability to impose higher airport user fees during busy times at congested airports and to auction off landing and takeoff "slots" at such airports. But they've all got to come to some agreement soon -- the FAA's budget is tied up in this legislation.

Here's the only other thing CoGo has to say after looking at the dense, turgid language in a working draft of the bill, which is 291 pages long: Being a U.S. senator isn't all it's cracked up to be. No wonder McCain, Obama and Clinton are looking for new jobs.

Update: The optimism that the bill will pass tonight has dimmed. A glitch began over disagreement about a provision involving airline pension plans. While that got worked out with an amendment, it raised issues about whether and how more amendments could be added. In other words, a technicality that any normal person would not want to spend the time understanding. Bottom line: Whether this is a little glitch or a big glitch that could further delay passage remains to be seen.

By Cindy Loose |  May 1, 2008; 6:20 AM ET  | Category:  Airline Industry , Cindy Loose , In the News , Insta-CoGo
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Dream on:
Wouldn't it be nice if congressional bills only contained what they're about - getting funding for upgrading the air traffic control system - and not things that aren't directly tied to that (like airline pension plans)?

Dream off.

Posted by: Rockville | May 1, 2008 1:57 PM

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