Wednesday, June 16, 1999

Airport growth on hold

House OKs spending bill, but veto expected

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HEBRON — President Clinton's threatened veto of a federal airport spending bill could mean less money for planned expansions at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

        The House was undeterred by the veto threat Tuesday night and passed Federal Aviation Administration authorization bill, 316-110. The bill directs $56 billion over five years to operate the FAA and improve airport and air-traffic control facilities.

        Before the House vote on Tuesday, the White House budget office issued a statement saying that senior advisers would urge Mr. Clinton to veto the measure.

        The measure, written by House Transportation Committee Chairman Bud Shuster, R-Pa., would separate the airport and airways trust fund from the rest of the federal budget. That means money flowing into the fund — from passenger ticket taxes and other sources — could be used only for aviation purposes and not be counted as part of the federal surplus.

        The legislation would have the effect of increasing spending for aviation proj ects because now some of the trust fund's money is used for other purposes.

        “The administration wants to keep the money because it masks the deficit,” U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Southgate, said Tuesday. “I want to spend the money on airports and airport development, because that is where the money is supposed to be dedicated.”

        Bob Holscher, the airport's director of aviation, said he's glad the House passed the bill. If it clears the Senate and avoids a veto, he said, it will help airports nationwide.

        “That money has never been given back to the airport, it's been used to offset the federal budget,” said Mr. Holscher. “It's very difficult to tell exactly how a veto would affect our growth plans, but it would mean less money available for growth projects.”

        The Federal Aviation Administration is studying building a third north-south runway, which would cost $100 million or more.

        The airport board is considering adding parking lots and garages. The cost of new parking is being studied, but a new garage and some new long-term surface parking lots would cost several million dollars.

        Mr. Holscher said the bill could make more money available for soundproofing homes hear the airport.

        The Kenton County Airport Board, which operates the airport, has spent more than $80 million soundproofing homes in recent years.

        But more funding will be needed for additional soundproofing if another runway is built.

        The bill has a provision that would allow the airport to increase the local ticket fees that are used to pay for projects such as soundproofing, Mr. Holscher said.

        The administration objected that the measure would not pay for “any of the significant increases in spending it would provide.”

        The White House also objected to the trust fund's removal from the federal budget. The budget “presents spending trade-offs and permits more fully informed deci sions to be made on allocating the nation's resources,” the statement said.

        Mr. Shuster and his supporters have said aviation taxes should not be used for nonaviation purposes. He has said that includes using revenue from those taxes to pay for a tax cut.

        Mr. Shuster's proposal was supported by bipartisan members of his committee and lawmakers eager for airport projects in their districts.

        It was opposed by Rep. Bill Archer, R-Texas, chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee; Rep. John Kasich, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Budget Committee; Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee; and by many conservatives worried that it will reduce the size of the tax cut Republicans want to pass this year.


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