Senate Democrats say FAA bill supports jobs

Behind an $8.1 billion investment in the Airport Improvement Program, the bill would support 280,000 jobs, with 90,000 jobs directly from construction jobs and suppliers and 190,000 jobs in support positions, according to an estimate by the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE).

For every $1 billion in federal funds — assuming 20 percent in local matching funds — 35,000 jobs are created, according to Chip Barclay, president of the AAAE. 

Bill sponsor Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said the aviation industry plays a major role in the economy, employing 11 million people and creating $1.2 trillion in economic activity. 

The bill as introduced in the Senate is the same one that passed the the chamber 93-0 nearly a year ago and doesn't include any of the major issues that stalled the legislation in House-Senate negotiations for the past three years, including an increase of the passenger facility charge (PFC), labor provisions between UPS and FedEx, or the addition of 16 long-distance slots at Reagan National airport near Washington, D.C., as requested by Western lawmakers. 

The measure has been extended 17 times since expiring in 2007. The current extension expires March 31. 

Overall, the measure is "self-funded" with a variety of user fees, said Reid. 

"It's not an appropriations bill," he said.  

Lawmakers argue that the implementation of a new satellite-based air traffic control system will reduce airport delays that cost the economy about $33 billion a year and prepares the system for upward of 1 billion passengers within the next 5 to 10 years, saying the industry provides "intricate, high-paying jobs," Rockefeller said. 

"We can't afford to go another year without this system," he said. 

The measure calls for the air traffic control system to switch from World War II-era radar technology to a satellite-based system by 2014 at the busiest airports, and nationwide by 2020. The new system, known as NextGen, would cost the FAA about $22 billion through 2025, while airlines would spend about $20 billion to upgrade their airplanes' computer systems.

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