By Dean Franks, senior vice president, congressional relations, ARTBA
Congress is facing several pieces of must-pass legislation in the coming weeks, in addition to a strong desire among many members and President Trump to take up a major infrastructure initiative.
First up is how to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year. Since Oct. 1, government spending has been held at FY 2017 levels through a series of short-term Continuing Resolutions (CR), the latest expires Jan. 19. Bipartisan congressional leaders and White House officials are trying to reach consensus on spending levels and other issues that could be wrapped into one package. While reports from these negotiations signal movement in a positive direction, another CR to keep the government operating may be necessary before a reaching a final deal.
As it relates to FY 2018 transportation spending, ARTBA staff has called on congressional leaders to include a provision in the Senate transportation appropriations bill that would continue funding the TIGER discretionary grant program. ARTBA is urging an increase in the Passenger Facility Charge user fee for commercial aviation travelers that funds capital projects at airports, another Senate provision, be included in any final package.
Congressional Republican leaders are meeting Jan. 6-7 with President Trump at Camp David in Maryland to discuss the 2018 legislative agenda, including a $1 trillion infrastructure package. The Trump administration is expected to release its infrastructure plan before the Jan. 30 State of the Union address.
Other issues facing Congress include the contentious need to increase the federal debt limit and reauthorize federal aviation programs, now operating under a temporary extension through March 31. House and Senate leaders are at an impasse on the FAA bill. House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) is pushing a bill to privatize the nation’s air traffic control system. The provision is supported by the airlines, but unpopular with the general aviation industry, Democrats in the House and both parties in the Senate. There was discussion in 2017 about possibly combining the FAA reauthorization and the infrastructure package, but it’s unclear if there is sufficient support for that approach.
ARTBA will continue to push to ensure the final FY 2018 spending deal fully funds the highway and public transportation investments authorized by the FAST Act, while also maximizing investment levels in airport construction and other transportation capital programs. We are also urging Congress and the administration to stabilize and grow the Highway Trust Fund revenue foundation as part of any infrastructure package.