By Dave Bauer, senior vice president of government relations, ARTBA

President Donald Trump has signed legislation to extend federal discretionary funding through Dec. 22. The measure was passed late Dec. 7 by both chambers of Congress.

All programs have been operating since Oct. 1 under a temporary extension of FY 2017 spending levels that would have expired Dec. 8.  Given that House and Senate leaders have been open that they plan to keep the legislative calendar clear to prevent interference with their efforts to finalize a tax bill before the end of the year, final FY 2018 funding levels are not expected until after Congress reconvenes in January.

The full House of Representatives and the Senate Appropriations Committee have approved FY 2018 transportation funding measures that would fully fund the FAST Act’s Highway Trust Fund-supported spending levels. As a result, the $900 million increase in highway investment authorized for FY 2018 will be delayed until Congress completes action on a final measure.

The main differences between the House and Senate versions is the Senate would provide $2.13 billion for the Transit Capital Investment Grants (a program supported by general funds as opposed to the Highway Trust Fund) while the House bill would allocate $1.75 billion for the program. The Senate bill also includes an ARTBA-supported $4 increase in the Passenger Facility Charge, an airport user fee charged per ticket on commercial flights, that is estimated would generate more than $3 billion for airport capital investment and a $250 million increase in direct federal construction investment through the Airport Improvement Program. The House measure would simply maintain airport funding at the level that has existed for the past six years.

ARTBA will continue to push to ensure a final U.S. Department of Transportation funding bill at a minimum fully funds the highway and public transportation investments authorized by the FAST Act and maximizes investment levels in airport construction and other transportation capital programs.