DALLAS – The top Democrats on four House committees want a new budget analysis of legislation that would privatize the national air traffic control system since the measure was changed following its approval by the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in late June.

House and Senate committees have approved differing measures that would reauthorize the FAA for three to six years when the latest short-term authorization expires at the end of September.
House and Senate committees have approved differing measures that would reauthorize the FAA for three to six years when the latest short-term authorization expires at the end of September.
Dallas Fort Worth International Airport

The initial scoring by the Congressional Budget Office of H.R. 2997 found the measure that would spin off the air traffic control system to a nonprofit corporation that could set fees and issue revenue bonds for infrastructure and equipment would increase the deficit by $20.7 billion over the next 10 years. The CBO said the measure would generate $70 billion of additional revenues through 2027 but would result in $90.7 billion of additional spending.

The budget deficit created by the FAA bill would extend beyond 2027, the CBO said.

“CBO estimates that enacting H.R. 2997 would increase net direct spending and on-budget deficits by more than $5 billion in one or more of the four consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2028,” the report said.

The letter sent Monday to CBO director Keith Hall said the House Rules Committee altered the bill to cut $1 billion of grants from the Federal Aviation Administration’s airport improvement program and to slash aviation excise taxes by $15 billion per year beginning in fiscal 2021 without any compensatory budgetary offsets.

“In total, these changes to H.R. 2997 … likely would add tens of billions to the cost of the legislation and thus the budget deficit,” the letter from the Democrats said.

The authors are: Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., the ranking Democrat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, of the Committee on Space, Science and Technology; Rep. John Yarmouth, D-Ky., of the Budget Committee; and Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., of the Ways and Means Committee.

The FAA reauthorization bill, which is expected to be considered by the House in September, would extend the FAA for six years. The FAA’s authorization was set to expire at the end of fiscal 2016 but was extended last year for another 12 months.

Another short-term extension to the last reauthorization in 2012 is likely as the House is expected to take up tax reform and immigration following the August recess, the American Association of Airport Executives said last week.

“With the various controversies surrounding what is in the pending House and Senate FAA reauthorization bills and with the clock quickly winding down, we appear to be headed for yet another extension,” AAAE said. “It is our hope that Congress and the administration in the months ahead will find a way to provide more clarity — and progress on meeting promised infrastructure investments — than has been yielded to date in 2017.”

Rep. Bill Shuster, the Pennsylvania Republican who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and a fervent supporter of privatizing the air traffic control system, said before the recess that he was confident the FAA bill could be adopted before the Sept. 30 deadline.

“I wanted to pass it now, but we’ve got a lot of people moving in the right direction, and so I feel pretty good about where we’re going to be in September,” Shuster said. “If we had another week here, I think we’d have it on the floor next week.”

The three-year FAA reauthorization, S. 1405, passed by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on July 29 does not include privatization of the air traffic control system.

The chairman of that committee, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said there were not enough proponents of the spinoff on the panel to include it in the measure.

President Donald Trump endorsed the air traffic control spinoff at a June 5 event at the White House. Trump said the FAA had wasted billions of dollars trying to modernize the air traffic control system.

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