By Dean Franks, vice president of congressional affairs, ARTBA

Senate consideration of a multi-year reauthorization of the federal aviation programs will slip into its third week as Senators were unable to complete action on the measure the week of April 11. The legislation being debated, “The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2016” (H.R. 636), would authorize the programs through FY 2017 and increase funding for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) from the current $3.35 billion to $3.75 billion next year.  AIP investment, which supports airport runway and taxiway capital improvements, has been held at that $3.35 billion level since FY 2012.

The bill does not address the Passenger Facility Charge, another commercial airport infrastructure revenue source, which has been held at $4.50 per enplanement user fee since 2000.

While most amendments offered to H.R. 636 address aviation operational and safety issues, Senate leaders accepted April 11 a proposal from Sen. Corey Booker (D-N.J.) to replace the current threshold for Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program eligibility on federal-aid airport improvement projects with the Small Business Administration size standard for highway and bridge construction firms.  The effect of the amendment would be to increase the gross receipts cap for DBE Program eligibility by about $11.5 million to $36.5 million.  The final amendment was scaled back from Booker’s initial proposal to apply this increase across all modes of federal transportation investment.

Following the expected Senate passage of the measure the week of April 18, attention will turn to the House of Representatives.  The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Feb. 11 approved a six-year aviation program reauthorization bill, but action on that measure has been stalled due to a controversial proposal to privatize the nation’s air traffic control system.

The aviation programs are operating under a temporary extension of current law that expires July 15.  ARTBA President and CEO Pete Ruane wrote to all Senators on April 12 urging support for H.R. 636.  Read the letter.

ARTBA will continue to advocate for increased airport capital investment as the reauthorization process moves forward.