Airports decry $65M cut in funding bill

Airports decry $65M cut in funding bill
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Airports are blasting a $65 million funding cut they would take under a bill that would extend federal aviation funding for six months.

The Senate's bill to prevent a government shutdown on Oct. 1, which was released by Senate appropriators on Tuesday, contains language that would extend the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) funding until March 31, 2016

Airports groups in Washington said Thursday that the measure would cut funding for the FAA's Airport Improvement Program. 

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"Unfortunately, the [continuing resolution] as drafted would reduce AIP funding over the six-month period because of a technical budget issue," Airports Council International and the American Association of Airport Executives, known collectively as AirportsUnited, wrote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump blasts McCain, bemoans not getting 'thank you' for funeral GOP senator: Trump's criticism of McCain 'deplorable' McConnell calls McCain a 'rare patriot' and 'American hero' after Trump criticism MORE (R-Ky.) 

"Specifically, the draft measure proposes a total of $1.61 billion in AIP funding through March 31, 2016," the letter continues. "This represents a $65 million reduction from the $1.675 billion that would be provided by simply extending program funding at current levels. Notably, both the pending House and Senate FY 2016 DOT/FAA funding bills support AIP funding at levels consistent with the higher $1.675 billion level or $3.35 billion over the full fiscal year." 

The FAA funding is included in the Senate's continuing resolution (CR) in an attempt to prevent an interruption in the nation's aviation funding at the end of the month. 

The FAA's previous appropriations measure, which includes funding for air traffic controllers, is set to expire on Sept. 30, along with funding for most federal government functions. 

Lawmakers had been expected to try to roll the temporary extension for the FAA into the broader measure to keep the government funded, because Congress punted debate on a long-term surface transportation-funding bill into October before leaving for their August recess.

The airports groups said Thursday that the temporary FAA extension should not contain a funding cut if lawmakers are going to settle for a temporary extension instead of multiyear aviation bill. 

"While we appreciate the desire to keep the CR 'clean,' we urge you to take action to address this technical budget issue and provide the full $1.675 billion in AIP funding for the first six months of FY16," the groups wrote. 

"Airports and the communities they serve shouldn’t be unnecessarily penalized over an unintended budget snafu," the letter continued. "Moreover, airports simply can’t afford to sustain AIP cuts at a time when capital needs and passenger levels are rising and while there is an artificial federal cap on local Passenger Facility Charges." 

The fight over passenger facility charges has been one of the holdups on a long-term FAA funding bill.

Airlines and airports have squabbled over a proposal to increase the amount of money passengers can be charged to help pay for facility improvements.

Airport groups in Washington have been pushing Congress to nearly double the cap on the fee that is added to every plane ticket, which is known as the Passenger Facility Charge, from $4.50 to $8.50. 

Airlines have countered that passengers are already charged enough fees by the federal government when they purchase airfare.