Although the federal aviation spending bill passed overwhelmingly
by the Senate last week (it is expected to be passed by the House
any day now and then signed into law by President Clinton) isn't
everything industry supporters hoped for, by and large the
compromise measure serves the interests of the flying public -- and
that is all that counts.
After all, the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization
measure is less generous and more short-termed than the original
passed by the House last spring, calling for $40 billion (not $57
billion) to be invested in aviation infrastructure over a
three-year period (not five).
Nevertheless, the legislation guarantees that funds derived from
airline ticket taxes (and the interest earned) will be devoted to
expenditures on aviation needs such as airport projects and the
improvement of air traffic control systems -- a victory of sorts,
if a belated one.
Already, work on safety, comfort and service enhancements, all
of which obviously redound to the benefit of consumers, has been
stifled by the legislative wrangling that has stalled the process
In fact, had a compromise not been reached early last week,
observers report that $1.2 billion in projects slated to go forward
this year would have been scrapped. Fortunately, it appears that
will not happen.
Of course, it should come as no surprise that the flying public
will pay the freight for some of this in the form of higher
passenger facility charges, which the legislation allows airports
to increase from a top of $3 a flight on every traveler to as much
as $4.50 to support revenue bond issues.
Nevertheless, we take comfort in the fact that the budget
compromise ensures that revenue targeted for aviation will not be
shared by other competing -- and needy -- federal programs. At
least the extra buck and a half will go where it belongs.