Senate Set to Debate FAA Modernization Legislation

Democratic leaders “say they will bring an aviation bill that includes $8 billion for airport construction to the Senate floor this week, pitching it as a jobs measure,” the AP reports.

The bill — introduced by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., last week — is identical to a bill that passed the Senate last spring on a 93 to 0 vote. That bill later stalled when Congress couldn’t reach agreement on several side issues, including distribution of landing slots at Reagan National Airport near Washington, the fee airline passengers pay to support airport improvements and a labor dispute between delivery giants FedEx and United Parcel Service.

This time Democrats are predicting a smoother flight for the measure. On Monday, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and other Democratic leaders will release an estimate by the American Association of Airport Executives that says the airport construction funds will support the employment of 90,000 workers and affect another 190,000 jobs.

The estimate is based on a calculation that $1 billion in federal spending supports 35,000 jobs. However, Transportation Department economists have previously said similar calculations for highway spending assume that state and local governments will match federal spending by 25 percent, or $250 million.

Some other notes:

  • “principal purpose of the bill is to provide authority for Federal Aviation Administration programs for the next two years, including an acceleration of the modernization of the nation’s aging air traffic control system”
  • the “last law providing long-term authority for FAA programs expired in 2007…Congress has since kept FAA programs going through a series of 17 short-term extensions”

It’s S. 223 – the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act.

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