WASHINGTON — Airports would receive steady funding until August, and the federal government would reclaim $17.4 million of unused transit funding this fiscal year, if two separate bills approved this week by the Senate and a House committee become law.
The Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill that would prevent authorizations of federal aviation and airport programs from lapsing this weekend, before Congress is able to pass a new multi-year law for those programs.
The bill, which had already been approved by the House but still requires President Obama’s signature before it can become law, would extend to Aug. 1 some funding provisions that are important to airport bond issuers. Those include a $3.515 billion airport improvement grant program and the ability of airports to collect $4.50 passenger facilities charges. PFCs are locally assessed user fees levied upon airline passengers. Many airports use PFC revenue to repay their debt obligations.
The two chambers still must resolve their differences on some controversial issues, such as whether to increase the cap on PFCs, before they can approve a new multi-year aviation law.
Congress has been relying on short-term extensions since the last multi-year law expired at the end of fiscal 2007.
House committee members yesterday also cleaned up one more piece of legislation before they are expected to leave for their July 4 holiday recess.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved by a voice vote a measure that would allow take unspent transit funds off the table.
But the measure, which would have to be approved by the full House and the Senate, was described as innocuous by the Democrats in the committee. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Tom Perriello, D-Va., said that transit agencies have not used the contract authority given to them to spend the $17 million during this fiscal year anyway.
By rescinding the unobligated transit grants, the federal government could instead use the funds to pay down the national deficit, committee chairman James Oberstar, D-Minn., said during a meeting to vote on the measure.
The grant money cannot be spent because transit agencies “have not moved forward to obligate the funds, and they will not be obligated” this fiscal year, he said.