Options Available for Reducing the Aviation Trust Fund Balance
RCED-86-124BR, May 21, 1986
In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) airport and airway trust fund to: (1) discuss the fund's history; (2) identify and measure the current and projected trust fund balances; and (3) examine options available to Congress for addressing the trust fund balance and revenue and expenditure levels.
In 1970, Congress established the airport and airway trust fund to provide a source of continuous funding and to ensure adequate investment in aviation capital facilities. The fund generates revenues through excise taxes paid by the aviation industry and its users and interest earned from the fund's investment in Treasury securities. FAA uses the trust fund for facilities, equipment, airport improvement, research, engineering, development, operations, and maintenance. GAO found that the trust fund's current unused balance of $3.2 billion could increase to $12.4 billion by the end of fiscal year 1990 if: (1) Congress reauthorizes the fund and aviation taxes without change; and (2) revenues and expenditures materialize as projected. GAO also found that the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 may result in further increases in the size of the unused balance. If Congress decides that the current and projected unused balance levels are too high, it could consider a range of options which would require a change to existing law.