By Dean Franks, vice president of congressional affairs, ARTBA
The House and Senate approved legislation Sept. 28 that provides Congress six more months to reauthorize federal aviation programs, now one year overdue. The extension expires March 31.
This summer, House and Senate authorizing committees each passed aviation bills. Both versions contain controversial aspects: the House bill proposing a quasi-privatization of the nation’s air traffic control system, the Senate bill changing commercial pilot training requirements.
The bills passed out of the Senate Commerce Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee would increase authorization levels for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), which has remained funded at $3.35 billion since FY 2012. ARTBA and its coalition partners have advocated for the increase in the primary federal airport capital construction program funding for over a decade. The House plan would grow AIP investment to $4 billion by FY 2023, while the Senate proposal would boost AIP funding to $3.75 billion in FY 2019 and hold it at that level through FY 2021.
Neither bill includes an increase in the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) – a user fee charged to commercial plane travelers for airport facility upgrades. The PFC has been capped at $4.50 since 2000.
President Donald Trump is expected to sign the six-month extension before the current extension expires Sept. 30. It is unclear when lawmakers will revisit aviation legislation, given the many other items on the congressional agenda this fall and winter.