FAA Bill Inches Through Senate, Fuel Tax Could Rise

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It still has a long way to go, but Tuesday's approval by a key Senate committee was seen as a major step toward getting a new FAA funding bill passed. The bill would fund the FAA for two years, giving the Obama administration time to come up with its own plans for how to fund the agency (which some suspect will include a fresh push for user fees). The OK from the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee was a major step, but the bill also must go through the Finance Committee before going to the full Senate for a vote, AOPA said on Wednesday. That committee will decide whether to extend fuel taxes at their current level or approve the increase that was included in the version of the bill adopted by the House. The House measure would raise taxes from 19.3 cents per gallon to 24.1 cents for avgas and from 21.8 cents per gallon to 35.9 cents for noncommercial jet fuel, AOPA said.

The Senate bill also would authorize a study of pilot fatigue and require that the findings be considered by the FAA in its coming rewrite of the flight and duty time rules. If it passes, it will be reconciled with the House version and then sent to the White House for consideration.