Contract Towers in OMB's Sights.... - ATC - Aviation Information

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Contract Towers in OMB's Sights....

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FAA Extension on Tuesday

by Kathryn A Wolfe, CQ Roll Call Staff

In today's take: A clean FAA extension will be on the House floor Tuesday, but it may be the last one; House T&I may be eyeing a Feb. 2 markup date for the surface transportation bill; the administration's fiscal 2013 budget may contain cuts to the contract tower program; and more.

A programming note: Today, we are improving Executive Briefing – Transportation by adding Federal Register documents related to this topic. You can now browse a list of Federal Register notices each day by scrolling to the bottom of the Morning Take email. You can also log into the website to see documents from the past two weeks and filter them by agency or date.

Adding Federal Register documents expands the reach of Executive Briefing, allowing you to follow your issues beyond Congress and into the regulatory arena.

FAA Extension Tuesday: The House is expected to take up an FAA extension Tuesday that would last through Feb. 29. The bill -- you can view the text here (PDF) -- is a clean extension. But the real news is that a deal has been brokered to dispense with the labor language that has been the biggest delay to the bill in recent months -- you can read my story here for more details. Lawmakers hope to have the final conference agreement inked and cleared by mid-February. Some problems are yet to be resolved, however, and some that have delayed the bill in the past have the potential to do so again. According to GOP aides, the remaining issues are long-distance flights at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport , the Essential Air Service program and the air cargo transportation of lithium batteries. (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid statement) (PDF)

House Surface Markup Date? The House T&I Committee has been hoping to mark up its surface transportation bill during the first week of February. Bloomberg is reporting that sources say the specific date will be Feb. 2. This makes sense, considering that T&I typically holds full committee markups on Thursdays. If that schedule holds, we should see the draft text next week. Bloomberg also reports that sources say the House GOP leadership has committed to giving the bill floor time in February, in keeping with House Speaker John A. Boehner's desire to have the bill done in the House by the Presidents Day recess.

Contract Towers in OMB's Sights: When President Obama's fiscal 2013 budget is released, it may slash funding for the " Contract Tower " program, whereby the FAA has contracted out its tower operations at airports with relatively low levels of activity and instituted a program of cost-sharing between the local community and the federal government. Now, sources suggest that the Office of Management and Budget is planning to recommend getting rid of contract tower subsidies for many of those airports. This Statesman-Journal story out of Salem , Ore. , says the proposal would eliminate service to all contract towers that don't have scheduled commercial airline service. According to Propwash, a niche aviation news service, this would affect just under half of the contract towers currently in operation, a disproportionate amount of which serve general aviation. Despite its potential to trim costs, it's not likely to go over well with House T&I Chairman John L. Mica, R-Fla., who has tried in the past to expand the contract tower program.

PATCO supports the contract tower program and will fight to ensure that the current system and its member’s jobs are protected.

Ron Taylor, President
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