House lawmakers introduce FAA bill

Overall funding levels are set at the 2008 spending levels for the remainder of 2011 and beginning in full in fiscal year 2012, which begins Oct. 1. 

Several Democratic Senators are urging Republicans to abandon their push to reduce the FAA's budget down to 2008 levels that they say would hamper the upgrading of the nation's air traffic control systems and force layoffs. 

The House measure provides $4 billion in savings compared with current funding levels and requires the FAA administrator to identify "significant cost savings without cutting any safety critical activities."

"This bill reforms and streamlines aviation programs, consolidates facilities, increases responsible private sector participation in aviation facility operations, and strengthens oversight of the NextGen air traffic control modernization program," Mica said.

In accordance with the House Republican moratorium, the bill contains no earmarks.

The Senate is expected to finish their version of the bill, a two-year reauthorization, on Monday. To avoid the 18th short-term extension of the funding, lawmakers will have to reconcile the measure before March 31. 

The House measure also phases out funding and sunsets the Essential Air Service (EAS) Program, providing savings of approximately $400 million over four years.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has said he opposes cutting the EAS program. The Senate bill calls for an additional $73 million for the EAS program. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has offered an amendment to repeal the entire program. Upward of 100 airports others across the country could be affected without the funding.

On NextGen, the satellite-based air traffic control system, the House bill streamlines processes and provides funding for the modernization projects planned in the next four years.  

"This four-year bill will provide long-term stability for the FAA and airports to plan major infrastructure improvements that will create and sustain jobs in the construction industry, aviation industry, and other businesses that rely on an efficient aviation system," Petri said. 

The bill also would:

• Allow for expansion of the cost effective contract tower program, which allows airports to utilize privately operated, more efficient control towers 

• Set up a process for the consolidation of aging, obsolete and unnecessary FAA facilities.

• Institutes a risk-based approach to inspections of foreign repair stations in a manner that protects jobs and respects bilateral agreements.  

• Include binding arbitration for air traffic controllers and other FAA employees to resolve labor impasses.

• Repeal unionization election rule changes implemented in May 2010 to again ensure that a majority of a workforce must vote in favor of union representation.

The bill doesn't contain: 

• Antitrust immunity sunset

• Ban on cell phones

• PFC for bike storage at airports