Aaron Fobes, Julia Lawless (202)224-4515
Hatch: FAA Bill with Clean Tax Title the ‘Right Approach’ to Address Air Traffic Needs
Utah Senator Says, “Make no mistake, this bill is about protecting jobs and consumer interests across the country.”
WASHINGTON – In a speech today on the Senate floor, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) called on colleagues to support the FAA reauthorization bill to ensure the solvency of our nation’s airway system and to prevent a funding shortfall.
“This is a good outcome for the American people and all the industries that rely on a fully functional airway system,” said Hatch. “The legislation before us will extend the programs for a year and half and provide greater certainty for people and businesses around the country.”
Hatch went on to detail how a clean extensions of FAA taxes, free of additional provisions, is a fiscally responsible approach to funding the FAA.
“A clean extension of the FAA taxes – like the one before us – is probably the best approach,” Hatch continued. “My main priority in developing this legislation was to ensure adequate funding for the FAA and airway projects and programs throughout the country and to do so in a fiscally responsible manner.”
The complete speech as prepared for delivery is below:
Mr. President, I rise today in support of the FAA reauthorization legislation before us as well the manager’s amendment filed yesterday on this key piece of legislation.
This is an important bill that will ensure that the Airport and Airway Trust Fund remains solvent and that our nation’s airway system – and the countless jobs that are impacted by the system – do not have to deal with a funding shortfall or a lapse in authorization.
The Airport and Airway Trust Fund finances many of our national aviation programs. Currently, expenditures from the Trust Fund are authorized through July 15th of this year. And, the provisions that ensure adequate funding for the Trust Fund expire at the same time. That means, absent congressional action, national airway programs and projects will come to a screeching halt about three months from now.
Make no mistake, this bill is about protecting jobs and consumer interests across the country. No one would benefit from a lapse in funding or authorization as either one would threaten the livelihoods of people throughout the country. While, from time to time, the passage of what should be considered routine legislation can get weighed down by unrelated issues, no one seriously disputes the need to get this bill over the finish line.
As you know, Mr. President, the Senate Finance Committee, which I chair, is responsible for the tax title of the FAA bill. The Trust Fund is paid for through a number of tax provisions that are set to expire in July along with the authorization of expenditures from the Trust Fund.
These provisions include longstanding taxes on domestic and international airfares, taxes on jet fuel, and others.
In years past, the Finance Committee has introduced and debated legislation to renew and, if necessary, update those provisions. We typically have a markup and report the legislation out of committee. I had intended to follow a similar course with this year’s FAA bill. Unfortunately, that isn’t how things worked out.
As we were working through the process in committee to set up an FAA markup, it became clear that my friends on the other side of the aisle saw the bill as an opportunity to add a number of extraneous items – provisions that had nothing whatsoever to do with the FAA – to the bill and set the stage for a politically-charged debate in the Finance Committee.
Now, I’m not one to shy away from controversy. But, with an item of this importance – one that is a priority for members on both sides – I didn’t see the benefit for either side in turning the FAA tax title into another wide-ranging tax extenders bill and reducing the robust debate process in the Finance Committee to a series of controversial votes. Moreover, given the small lead time before the authorizing bill was to be up for floor debate, a markup that addressed anything more than the Finance Committee’s basic responsibility to fund the FAA would have prejudiced members on both sides in terms of preparation. For all of these reasons, we decided not to mark up the bill in committee and, instead, to resolve the matter here on the floor.
And, it appears that it has been resolved that we’ll be voting before the end of this week on: A simple extension of the taxes dedicated to the Airport and Airway Trust Fund through end of Fiscal Year 2017.
Ultimately, a clean extension of the FAA taxes – like the one before us – is probably the best approach. My main priority in developing this legislation was to ensure adequate funding for the FAA and airway projects and programs throughout the country and to do so in a fiscally responsible manner.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve heard a lot of talk about adding additional provisions to the tax title and there were some efforts to once again stack this legislation with extraneous items. Indeed, leading up to yesterday, lobbyists and special interest groups all over town were waiting with baited breath to see what was in the tax title.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not a purist or a foolhardy idealist. While I have made it clear that I’d prefer that the Senate pass a clean FAA bill, I know that none of us can reasonably expect to get everything we want out of every piece of legislation, particularly when the goal is bipartisan compromise. I am very much in favor of practicing the art of the doable, which sometimes means accepting things I don’t want to see happen. So, I have been willing to work with my colleagues to include other provisions in the tax title in order to get a deal on the overall FAA bill.
I’ll leave it to others to characterize what happened in those negotiations, as none of the items under discussion were high priorities for me. Instead, I’ll just note that, after weeks of discussion, finger-pointing, and a little bit of grandstanding, the decision was made to move forward on a clean 18-month extension of the FAA funding provisions, which, once again, was my preference from the outset.
Needless to say, I’m pleased with this outcome. I just wish we could have taken a less contentious path to arrive at this conclusion.
Still, this is a good outcome for the American people and all the industries that rely on a fully functional airway system. The legislation before us will extend the programs for a year and half and provide greater certainty for people and businesses around the country.
On top of that, it will improve security on planes and in our nation’s airports while also providing much needed improvements to help consumers and airline passengers.
I know that the people of Utah are particularly interested in seeing Congress finish its work on the FAA reauthorization. And, over the last few months, I’ve heard from many groups and businesses from Utah on a number of issues addressed by this bill, including airport funding, drone safety, rural airport needs, and general aviation.
Many people, when they think about Utah’s airways, probably think that we just have the one airport in Salt Lake City. And, make no mistake, that’s an important airport, not only to Utah, but to air travel and shipping all across the country and other parts of the world.
But, my state’s interest in the FAA bill extends well beyond the Salt Lake City
International Airport. All told, we have 47 total airports in the state of Utah, varying greatly in purpose, size, and overall capacity, all of which would benefit from this legislation.
Many of these airports have new development or expansion projects either underway or in the planning stages. The legislation before us will give assurances to these airports and allow them to plan for future needs.
The bill also includes important provisions from the Treating Small Airports with Fairness Act, which constitutes Section 5028 of the FAA bill. This legislation will help a number of smaller rural airports – like some of those in Utah – bring back TSA staff and security screening equipment if certain conditions are met.
And, under Subtitle F of the bill, we have language taken from Pilots Bill of Rights 2, a bill that the Senate passed by Unanimous Consent last year, but has not yet passed in the House. The general aviation community in Utah will benefit tremendously these provisions, which could potentially help thousands of general aviation pilots in Utah, saving them time and money in managing their health and fitness to fly
There are other provisions in the bill that will benefit Utah and most states throughout the country.
In short, this is a good bill, Mr. President. From the FAA reauthorization provisions to the tax and funding title, it is the right approach to addressing these particular needs, and we need to get it done. Therefore, I urge my colleagues to support Senator Thune’s manager’s amendment as well as the overall FAA bill.
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