Shuster wants ‘transformational’ FAA funding bill


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House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) said Tuesday that the next Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funding bill that is approved by Congress should be “transformational.” 

The $63 billion bill that was passed for the agency in 2012 is currently set to expire in September 2015.

Shuster said Tuesday at an event presented by The Hill and sponsored by Airlines For America that major changes should be made to the way the aviation regulatory agency operates before another round of funding is approved next year. 

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“The next FAA reauthorization should be transformational,” Shuster said. “We've got to do something different. We need to lay the groundwork for the future of U.S. aviation.” 

The FAA's last funding measure was approved in 2012 after more than 20 temporary extensions of a measure that was scheduled to have expired in 2009. The standoff over the FAA's funding produced a two-week partial shutdown of the agency in 2011. 

Shuster said Tuesday that it would not be acceptable for lawmakers to settle for another short-term FAA funding extension next year. 

“Nobody wants another three year, 23-extension FAA reauthorization,” he said. “I don’t believe air traffic controllers want to see those extensions again. They spent three years without a cost of living pay increase and they’re spending time in the towers with antiquated systems when they know there’s better software systems out there.” 

Shuster said lawmakers “have to think big and bolder” to craft a long-term FAA funding measure that both parties could agree to. 

“If we don’t do that, I believe we’re going to be in trouble,” he said. “We need to think bigger than just a simple FAA reauthorization.” 

Shuster said he agreed with airlines that have complained that they are taxed too much by the federal government. 

“I’m concerned about increasing taxes, which now account for 21 percent of every airline ticket,” he said. “When you look at Europe, it’s almost double that, and we certainly can’t move toward the European model of doubling our taxes on the traveling public. I believe we need to start to reduce that tax burden on the traveling public.” 

Shuster added that he is concerned about the FAA's progress on its plans to convert the national airplane navigation system from World War II-era radar technology to a satellite-based system that is known as NextGen.

The FAA is relying on funding from its future appropriations measure to help fund the implementation of the new system, which is expected to cost $40 billion to complete but transportation department officials have said will drastically improve air traffic management in the U.S. 

Shuster said he doubted the FAA would be able to meet its 2020 deadline for completing the new airplane navigation system without major changes being made in its next funding measure. 

“When I talk to my father, he told me that 25 years ago, they were talking about NextGen when he was in Congress,” he said, referencing his father, former House Transportation Committee Chairman Rep. Bud Shuster (R-Pa.).