Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) March 1 said his panel could release a three-year reauthorization proposal for the federal aviation programs as early as next week.

He added the measure could be considered by the full Senate in April. While details of the plan are not available, it is widely expected to be a more traditional proposal—in contrast to the measure approved by the House Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee that includes a controversial plan to privatize U.S. air traffic control functions.

According to media reports, senators are still discussing a potential increase in the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) cap as part of the aviation reauthorization measure.  Airports use PFC-generated revenue for a variety of capital improvements, but the cap has not been raised since 2000.  The House T&I Committee plan did not include a PFC increase, but it would increase Airport Improvement Program (AIP) investment from the current $3.35 billion level to $4.0 billion over six years.  AIP funding has been held at $3.35 billion for the past five years.  The Senate proposal’s AIP investment levels remain to be seen.

ARTBA February 26 wrote to Thune and the committee’s Ranking Democrat Bill Nelson (D-Florida) urging them to both boost AIP investment and raise the PFC to help ensure investment in airport infrastructure improvements is in line with documented needs by the Federal Aviation Administration.  ARTBA also provided each senator on the committee with a copy of the letter and a fact sheet demonstrating how his or her state benefits from AIP investment.

The aviation programs are currently operating under a short-term extension that expires March 31.  Thune and House T&I Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania) are both backing a three-month extension of the programs to keep the pressure on Congress to complete a multi-year aviation bill in 2016.

ARTBA will provide the details of any Senate aviation proposal once it is released.