Washington - House and Senate negotiators reached agreement yesterday on stop-gap legislation that would allow $800 million in airport construction funds to be handed out to states and localities between now and June 30.
The bill, which now goes back to both houses for final approval, includes a controversial provision that would allow the secretary of transportation to freeze airport fees. The provision was in both the House and Senate versions of the bill, and so was not a point of contention during the negotiations to pull together a final package.
Congressional aides said the Senate was poised to take a final vote last night, while the House may vote on Tuesday.
Under the freeze provision, the transportation secretary would have the authority to head off any proposed airport fee increase if an airline complained that the increase was unreasonable. Municipal market participants have said the provision could put some airport bond ratings in jeopardy and frighten investors.
The short-term funding measure is needed because federal airport construction grants have been hold since Oct. 1, the start of the current fiscal year. The House passed its version of the three-year Airport Improvement Program reauthorization last year, but the Senate has so far failed to complete action.