Construction work on the Bradley West building at LAX earlier this year (Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles…)
Reporting from Washington — The House of Representatives on Tuesday quickly and unanimously passed a bill temporarily extending funding for the Federal Aviation Administration and federal highway programs.
Funding for more than 1 million federal employees and construction jobs was set to expire by Oct. 1 if extensions were not passed. Though both parties had misgivings about the bill, no House members wanted to be tied to a big job loss.
The FAA's funding through Jan. 31 comes from the 22nd consecutive extension bill since the last long-term funding bill expired in 2007. Highway programs will be funded through March.
The bill is headed to the Senate, where it is expected to pass by the end of the week. But two months ago, passage of the last FAA extension did not come easy. A stalemate over a rider that House Republicans added to the bill resulted in 4,000 FAA employees being furloughed and several stalled airport construction projects; in addition, the FAA has been unable to collect about $350 million in taxes from airline carriers.
Some conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation are urging Republicans to vote against the bill, arguing that the money would not be well spent.
"In particular, the six-month extension of highway funding sets funding levels significantly above those passed in the House budget earlier this year, continues to spend funds on programs that should not be funded and misses an opportunity to provide states flexibility in how they spend on transportation," wrote Dan Holler, communications director for Heritage Action for America, in a mass email responding to the bill's passage.
Although the six-month highway extension retains an 18.4-cent-per-gallon federal gas tax, the Congressional Budget Office has projected that those taxes will not give the highway trust fund enough money to pay for its projects and that the fund will be insolvent by summer or fall of next year. In recent years, Congress has dipped into the general Treasury fund to pay for what the trust could not.
The bill's sponsor, John L. Mica (R-Fla.), said he and other Republicans on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee are committed to completing a long-term funding bill for both programs the next time around.
"This is not the time to bicker," Mica said. "This can't be another Band-Aid. We need long-term employment."