By Dean Franks, vice president of congressional affairs, ARTBA 

The Senate is deliberating on legislation to reauthorize the federal aviation programs for the first time in over four years.  The bipartisan bill, authored by Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) and Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), is a two-year proposal that would run through FY 2017.

The legislation includes a $400 million boost in Airport Improvement Program (AIP) investment to $3.75 billion in FY 2017.  AIP funding supports airport capital improvements, such as runways and taxiways, and has been held at $3.35 billion for the past five years. Despite initial reports, the Senate aviation bill does not include an increase in the Passenger Facility Charge—a ticket user fee charged by commercial airports to pay for broader infrastructure enhancements that has been capped at $4.50 since 2000.

ARTBA wrote to all senators urging support for the aviation bill and conveying our position on several infrastructure-related amendments that have been proposed.  The Senate is expected to pass the measure the week of April 11.

The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee approved a six-year aviation reauthorization bill in March, but action has stalled on that proposal due to controversial provisions that would privatize air traffic control functions.  As such, the Senate proposal will likely serve as the vehicle for further action on a reauthorization bill in 2016.

The aviation programs are currently operating on a temporary extension that runs through July 15.  ARTBA will continue to advocate for increased capital investment for airports as reauthorization process continues.