The Senate transportation appropriations subcommittee on Tuesday completed action on its fiscal year 1998 DOT appropriations legislation and approved funding of $1.7 billion for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP). This is identical to the amount approved last week by the full House appropriations committee.
Subcommittee members also approved the following funding levels for other FAA programs: Facilities & Equipment (F&E), $1.889 billion; FAA Operations, $5.375 billion, and Research, Engineering & Development (RE&D), $214 million. Total FAA funding under the legislation is $9.13 billion. The Senate subcommittee has also included a provision in its version of the legislation that would modify the way in which part of the AIP funds are distributed. In last year's reauthorization legislation, Congress enacted a provision that requires any AIP discretionary funds over $300 million to be divided equally among three areas: (1) general aviation, reliever and non-primary commercial service airports; (2) noise, and (3) the Military Airport Program (MAP). At the $1.7 billion funding level, this would result in a $418 million discretionary program and would allow an additional $39.5 million for each of these categories of funding.
The subcommittee has elected to include language that would allow the general aviation, reliever and non-primary commercial service airports to receive the additional funds. However, the $39.5 million that would otherwise go to the noise program and the $39.5 million that would otherwise go to the MAP program would instead be retained as discretionary funds to be allocated by FAA. The result of this provision, if enacted into law, would be that the discretionary pot would grow from $300 million at the $1.46 billion level to approximately $380 million at the $1.7 billion level. The noise program would be capped at $200 million and the MAP would be capped at $26 million.
On Thursday, July 17, the full Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to mark up the bill. In addition, floor action in the House on the transportation spending bill is expected to take place on July 22 or 23.