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Tue, Feb 07, 2006

DOT Rolls Out FY2007 Budget Plan

Big Plans For The FAA... But How Will They Pay?

Editor's Note: On Monday, DOT Secretary Norman Mineta unveiled President Bush's fiscal year 2007 budget for the agency. As expected, the $65.6 billion proposed budget includes several programs aimed at increasing safety on America's roads, rails, seas, and skies... the last of which, of course, is of more than passing interest to ANN's readers and staff.

We're still waiting to see what, precisely, the 2007 budget holds for the future of general aviation -- the agency says it will release those details on its website in the next day or so -- but already, some of Mineta's remarks have raised eyebrows. When the facts become available, ANN will be there to bring you the highlights (and, alas, possible lowlights).

We've also invited several industry heavyweights to comment on how they feel the 2007 budget will impact the ongoing battle over increased costs for pilots -- specifically, in the form of user fees. 

Below, ANN presents the portion of Mineta's speech Monday, unedited, on changes and programs at the FAA.

***

Approaching even more quickly is reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration and the taxes that finance the Aviation Trust Fund, which expire at the end of FY 2007.

Currently, our primary funding source is tied to the price of a ticket. But there is general consensus that our growing aviation system needs a more stable and predictable revenue stream –- one that creates a more direct relationship between revenues collected and services provided.

Soon, the Bush Administration will propose a reauthorization plan that will include a solid, forward-looking financing proposal for the Aviation Trust Fund. Until reauthorization, the President’s 2007 budget provides $13.7 billion from a combination of trust fund and general fund revenues.

Of the requested amount, $8.4 billion will address the FAA’s operational needs and fund hiring needed safety inspectors and replacing retiring air traffic controllers.

An additional $2.8 billion is provided for Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants, which were instrumental in helping restore service last year to several Gulf Coast airports shut down by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The airport construction grant request for 2007 is sufficient to address construction needs for all currently planned runways and meet our goal for improving runway safety.

Looking to the future, the Department’s budget provides $122 million for the Next Generation Air Transportation System initiative. Early progress in this multi-agency effort is encouraging, and our budget includes $80 million for the FAA for the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) program, a technology that will replace ground-based radar systems and revolutionize air navigation and surveillance.

In addition, the budget provides $24 million for System Wide Information Management (SWIM), which will make a network-enabled air traffic system possible, improving safety, efficiency, and security. These are the building blocks of the NextGen initiative, which will transform the way that America flies.

FMI: www.dot.gov

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