WASHINGTON – The U.S. House of Representatives today avoided an impending shutdown of the nation’s airports and road construction.
The measure, passed by a voice vote, extends funding for the Federal Aviation Administration, which had been scheduled to expire at the end of this week, through the end of January 2012 and extends highway and transit funding, which expired at the end of the month, through March 2012.
The FAA was briefly shuttered over the summer due to a disagreement between the House and Senate over several provisions in the bill, including funding the Essential Air Service program which subsidizes commercial flights to rural airports, including three in Minnesota. In a deal reached last last week, the current Essential Air Service program remains intact.
Had the highway bill authorization expired, more than $650 million worth of construction projects in Minnesota employing thousands of workers could have been endangered, according to data from MNDOT. The federal government typically provides about a third of all road construction fudning.
“It’s not the end result we wanted,” said GOP Rep. Chip Cravaack, who said he would have preferred a longer-term authorization of transportation spending. “But right now I guess this is the best we can do and we reached a good bipartisan agreement.”
The lower chamber also overwhelmingly voted 365-54 today to pass the first in a series of education reform bill sponsored by Minnesota Rep. John Kline, who chairs the House Education and Workforce Committee. The bill encourages the construction and expansion of charter schools.
In a statement, Kline called the bill “an important first step” for education reformers that “signals our shared commitment to the reform process.”
Kline’s committee has approved a series of education bills that are part of the process of reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act, but those measures have lacked bipartisan support and have not been brought to the House floor for a vote.
The bill also includes an amendment sponsored by Minnesota Republican Erik Paulsen that allows successful charter schools to receive federal grants three years after the school is established, rather than the previous five year waiting period.