Senators yesterday told U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta that the Administration's proposed cuts for airport projects and the Essential Air Service (EAS) program are shortsighted, signaling that the Senate may try to restore money to both areas.
Cutting Airport Improvement Program (AIP) money is an example of the Administration's balancing the books at the expense of "critical transportation infrastructure programs," said Senate Appropriations transportation subcommittee Chairman Christopher Bond (R-Mo.). "I am at a loss to understand why [AIP] remains in the sights of the budget gnomes," he said, particularly when traffic is rising quickly again.
FAA's Fiscal Year 2006 budget cuts AIP spending by 14% to about $3 billion (DAILY, Feb. 8). Mineta told the subcommittee this is still "sufficient to take care of applications for capacity-building projects like runways, taxiways and tarmac." Mineta highlighted the Administration's belief that airports aren't taking advantage of the passenger facility charges (PFCs) they are allowed to impose. There is still $350 million-$400 million available to airports because many don't charge the full PFC, Mineta said.
Subcommittee Ranking Democrat Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said if airports increased PFCs -- which are collected through ticket taxes -- it would be a "double whammy" for airlines on top of the security fee increases the Dept. of Homeland Security is proposing.
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