President Obama signed into law the Surface and Air Transportation Programs Extension Act of 2011 on September 16, 2011. This law combines the long-overdue Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization with the pending surface transportation bill (SAFETEA-LU), considering them together as one uniform transportation extension. The FAA bill will be extended for four months, while SAFETEA-LU will be extended for six, with an expiration date of March 31, 2012. The bill marks the 22nd short-term funding extension for the FAA since 2007 and the eighth extension of the highway bill that expired in 2009.
The legislation does not make any substantial changes to the current transportation and aviation programs, but authorizes continued funding for the various federal and state programs at approximately the levels provided in FY 2011. The law authorizes $24.78 billion in spending from the Highway Trust Fund for the first half of FY 2012 (which begins October 1, 2011) – $19.8 billion for highways and $4.2 billion for transit. The bill also renews the collection of the federal gas tax, which will be funded by the same 18.4 cent per gallon tax the U.S. has had since 1993, which was also due to expire September 30, 2011. This legislation provides $1.18 billion in contract authority for the FAA’s Airport and Airway Trust Fund for four months.
The Surface and Air Transportation Programs Extension Act of 2011 allows Congress more time to develop and negotiate a long-term reauthorization of the surface transportation and aviation programs.