Senate Finance votes to increase jet fuel taxes 65 percent to fund airport modernization

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said today that a long-term authorization of the AATF is needed because short term extensions are hindering the modernization of U.S. airports.

"Last week the Committee heard testimony from the Government Accountability Office on the state of the Trust Fund," Baucus said. "GAO described the importance of NextGen, the satellite-based means of air traffic control.  NextGen will help us make better use of our airspace."

The Senate approved similar tax legislation last year as part of the FAA bill, which the Senate approved in 93-0 vote.

The tax bill considered today would also repeal an exemption from Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF) taxes that is currently given to small aircraft. Language added by Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) ensures that the repeal of the exemption only applies to turbojet-powered planes.

It also includes language from Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) that would only allow 90 percent of AATF revenues to be spent each year, to make sure that the fund is not depleted.

The bill also allows tax-exempt bond financing for fixed-wing emergency medical aircraft, which is currently permitted for helicopters.