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Congress Gets It Right – FAA Legislation Lands Safely on the President's Desk

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Bernie Markstein

Positions: Chief Economist
Well known for his work as Senior Economist and Vice President of Economic Forecasting and Analysis for the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), Dr. Markstein has provided analysis on national and regional housing issues; tracking developments, trends in the multifamily housing market and forces affecting building materials prices.

Economists

Compromise moved much needed FAA reauthorization legislation through Congress

Reauthorization legislation for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that provides roughly $63 billion in funding for the agency through 2015 has passed the House and Senate and is headed to the President for his signature. Modernizing the FAA Multi-year funding allows the agency to enter into long-term contracts that ultimately prove to be cheaper than the stop and start contracting in which the FAA has been forced to engage for all too long. An example of one such project is the NextGen program aimed at modernizing the air traffic control system. About $1 billion is included in the legislation for the NextGen program. Back in August we criticized Congress for not funding the FAA (Crisis Averted, Crisis Ongoing), so it is only appropriate that we praise Congress for getting it right with passage of this bill. As usual, various issues requiring compromise held up the legislation. These included subsidies for smaller, rural airports and an issue regarding the rules for unionizing airline workers. As is typical with legislation, a compromise was reached over these and other issues. The result is a bill that undoubtedly has provisions that not everyone likes, but that as a whole, most like. This is how our federal government is supposed to work—through compromise. Compromise Equals Win-Win Compromise is not a four letter word. It means that neither side gets all that it wants. It means that on occasion I win and you lose. Some other times you win and I lose. In general, you and I rarely win or lose, but get some of what each of us needs. Compromise is certainly not an efficient process. But it is how our government works best. Ultimately, it helps the country move forward while generally protecting most interests over time. Quite simply, this time Congress got it right. The Long Delay Although this commentary is to praise Congress, we are not letting Congress entirely off the hook. Prior to passage of this legislation, the nation endured 23 short-term extensions of FAA funding authority since 2007! This included a two-week partial shutdown of the agency in August 2011, resulting in the furlough of over 4,000 employees and the loss of roughly $350 million in uncollected airline ticket taxes. The multi-year period of short-term funding also meant that implementation of programs such as NextGen were delayed and costs driven higher. As we proceed through the election cycle and an already political process becomes more strident, let’s hope that Congress can learn from this exercise and moves more needed legislation forward through compromise (in considerably less time than five years!) to the President’s desk. This is really all the American people want from their senators and congressional representatives—to carry out their responsibility as legislators to do the nation’s business. Who knows? If Congress does this they might even see their approval rating rise! Do you agree that Congress did the right thing by reauthorizing the legislation for FAA funding through 2015? Leave a comment to let me know your thoughts.

by Bernie Markstein

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