New Homeland Security Appropriations Bill Funds Baggage Screening

D/FW AIRPORT -- A funding feud with the Transportation Security Administration over who pays what for an expensive in-line baggage handling system at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport took a big step in the airport's favor Tuesday.

The U.S. Senate passed the Homeland Security appropriations bill 93-0 late Tuesday. The bill includes an amendment that would allot an additional $48 million for enhanced security equipment at D/FW and seven other U.S. airports. The bill must be reconciled with a similar measure in the House of Representatives.

D/FW is in the midst of building a $135 million baggage-handling system. The TSA -- backed by President Bush's budget proposals -- believes that the government agreed to pay 75 percent of the cost.

D/FW -- based on an authorization pushed by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and passed in December -- believes the government should pay 90 percent.

"For over a year I have fought to obtain for D/FW the full federal share. Now we are much closer to that goal," Hutchison said. "I am committed to seeing it through this year."

A bipartisan group of senators that included Hutchison, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry led the charge.

"We are certainly pleased with the additional appropriation and hope it paves the way for the TSA to fulfill its 90/10 obligation," D/FW Chief Operating Officer Kevin Cox said Tuesday.

The amendment could save D/FW up to $21 million.

The new baggage systems will reduce the number of TSA screeners needed at each airport, Cornyn said.

The other affected airports are in Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Seattle.