Airports Don't Fare Well in Bush Budget

The Bush budget plan fails to provide enough dollars to fund the industry's capital needs.

ACI-NA has been lobbying the FAA to authorize a $3 hike in the upper limit an airport can levy for PFCs. The group wants $7.50 as the new cap. Principato notes that the current $4.50 maximum PFC adjusted by the inflation rate for construction labor and materials would be $7.50 in 2008.

Since the PFC is an airfare ticket surcharge, it does not flow through the federal treasury. ACI-NA is seeking a streamlining of the PFC program in the next reauthorization act that gives the airports greater flexibility in working with the bureaucracy, he says.

Air Service Recruitment

Just as he has in every year since he has taken office, Bush wants to fund the EAS program at $50 million, explains Maurice Parker, RAP’s executive director. However, Parker says that the FAA apparently has not inserted language in the budget bill that would make it more difficult for a community to qualify for the EAS subsidy. In the last several budget submissions, Parker says, the FAA sought financial support — on a sliding scale — from the communities participating in the EAS program.

At the same time, Parker says the FAA in the budget measure did not propose any new ideas to enhance or replace the government subsidies that assure small communities have air links to the national grid.

The current FAA authorization measure calls for EAS to be funded at $127 million. Last year, Congress ignored the president's EAS proposal and instead provided $109.4 million. The pending legislation to fund the FAA through October continues to fund EAS at the $109.4 million mark, Parker says. RAP has been talking to lawmakers in an effort to raise funding beyond $109 million, but the word came back that the Democratic leadership would not permit a funding hike.

The Bush budget for the second year in a row does not provide any funding for the Small Community Air Service Development Grant program. In 2006, Congress provided $10 million instead of earlier $20 million annual appropriations.

Jorns says the continuing resolution contains $10 million to fund the grant program this year.

Parker is confident that Congress will ignore the president and again provide some funding for grants in 2008. At a recent hearing on the merger implications of U.S. Airways and Delta, senators expressed support of both this program and EAS.

Airport Security

The Bush budget plan does not fund the continued installation of explosives detection systems, Principato notes “We are very concerned about the level of federal support. At this rate it will be 20 to 25 years before we have in-line EDS in every airport.”

At the ACI-NA meeting in Reno last September, a TSA committee reported on several creative financing programs that could accelerate the installation of EDS systems. None of the suggestions contained in the report were in the TSA budget proposal, Principato says. "For some reason, the report has not been made final. We are very concerned about that.

“This has been a very big issue for the airline. They want us to work with them to get some real funding and financing. This is something the airports and airlines can come together on.”

After testifying on the FAA budget before a House committee, Transportation Secretary Mary Peters told reporters that the administration is working on some ideas to get the private sector to build the security systems and then lease it back to the federal government.

The ideas have not been formalized into legislation, she says. Furthermore, since this would be a TSA program it would not be included in the forthcoming FAA reauthorization measure.

There is a pending Senate measure, Principato adds that would make a $400 million federal investment in EDS – this would be $150 more than what has been previously appropriated. “That is a good start, but we have a ways to go.”

We Recommend