By Dean Franks, vice president of congressional affairs, ARTBA
House and Senate transportation leaders have reached a bipartisan agreement to extend Federal Aviation Administration programs through Sept. 30, 2017.
The bill, released July 7, would allow for adjustments to aviation security and other time-sensitive matters. It was introduced by House Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) and Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).
Despite static or decreased funding for over a decade, it appears authorization levels for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) will remain at $3.35 billion for FY 2017. ARTBA President and CEO Pete Ruane sent a recent letter to the committee leaders urging them to increase the AIP capital grant in the extension. Ruane noted both the Senate-passed and the House T&I Committee-approved full reauthorization bills included AIP authorization increases and, unlike the Highway Trust Fund revenue gap, there is ample money available in the Airport & Airways Trust Fund to increase investment levels.
While the nearly-15 month extension is expected to pass overwhelmingly in both the House and Senate before the current authorization expires July 15, it seems unlikely lawmakers will revisit aviation legislation until the new Congress convenes in January 2017. Assuming no electoral upsets, Shuster would remain chairman of the House T&I Committee, where he is likely to continue pursuing privatization of the nation’s air traffic control system. His proposal is strongly opposed by nearly all Democrats and some Republicans.
It is unclear at this point what—if anything—will change by the time the two sides return to debating this sticking point.