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Proposed bill would direct federal funds toward easing air traffic

The Senate Wednesday began debating legislation that advocates say would help ease the woes of airline travelers. The bill would direct government spending of $15.6 billion over the next three years for the nation's airports and air traffic control system. The funds would cover airport improvements, modernized equipment, and salaries of most of the nation's 15,400 air traffic controllers and aircraft inspectors.

The money, which will have to be provided in future legislation, would come from a special government fund maintained for aviation programs. The fund is made up of revenue from taxes on airline tickets, air freight, and aircraft fuel.

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The fund has a $5.6 billion surplus, which has been criticized by some who say the money should be spent faster. Government officials say the funds have not been used more quickly because of problems in developing some of the equipment that would be purchased.

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