February 07, 2011
Scott Mulhauser/Erin Shields
Baucus Releases Modified Chairman’s Mark of Airport and Airway Trust Fund Reauthorization Act
To: Reporters and Editors
From: Scott Mulhauser and Erin Shields for Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.)
Re: Baucus Releases Modified Chairman’s Mark of Airport and Airway Trust Fund Reauthorization Act
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) today released a modified Chairman’s Mark of the Airport and Airway Trust Fund Reauthorization Act of 2011 ahead of Committee consideration of the bill tomorrow morning. By incorporating amendments from both parties, the modifications to the Chairman’s Mark focus on increasing the affordability of aircraft used as emergency medical transports, preserving fairness for small air tour operators and ensuring the long-term solvency of the trust fund.
A description of the incorporated amendments follows below. An updated summary of the Chairman’s Mark is available on the Finance Committee website here.
Tax-exempt bond financing for fixed-wing emergency medical aircraft – This amendment, filed by Senator Cantwell (D-Wash.), would clarify that the general restriction against the use of tax-exempt bonds for purchasing an airplane does not apply in the case of planes that are equipped for and exclusively dedicated to providing acute care emergency medical services. It would be effective for bonds issued after the date of enactment.
Preserving fairness to small air tour operators – This amendment, filed by Senator Ensign (R-NV) modifies a provision affecting small tour operators. Under current law, transportation by aircraft weighing 6,000 pounds or less is exempt from certain AATF taxes unless the aircraft operates on an ‘established line,’ defined by IRS as a route “operated with some degree of regularity between definite points.” Similarly, when such aircraft operate on a flight for the sole purpose of sightseeing, the taxes imposed on the transportation or persons or cargo by air do not apply. The modified mark repeals the exemption from AATF taxes for small aircraft that are not rotorcraft or propeller aircraft. That is, the exemption is repealed for jet-engine aircraft weighing 6,000 pounds or less operating on non-established lines.
Ensuring the Solvency of the Airport and Airway Trust Fund – This amendment, filed by Senator Coburn (R-Okla.), would require that not more than 90 percent of the expected AATF revenues are appropriated each year in order to protect against overly-optimistic revenue projections. The projections are based on first quarter revenues from the preceding fiscal year, and for that reason, can be inaccurate if revenues drop.
A full list of amendments filed by Committee Members to the Chairman’s Mark is available here. Following tomorrow’s executive session, Senator Baucus intends to offer the modified Chairman’s Mark as an amendment to the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act, which is currently under deliberation by the full Senate.