DeFazio, left, and Graves.

By Dean Franks, senior vice president, congressional relations, ARTBA 

The House Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee March 26 continued its hearing process on potential components of an infrastructure package, with airport infrastructure needs and user fees receiving the latest spotlight.

Witnesses from various airports and the U.S. Travel Association all advocated lifting the cap on the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) user fee. The PFC is a ticket tax paid by commercial airline passengers that airports optionally charge to raise revenues for improvements at that airport facility. The fee has been capped at $4.50 since 2000. T&I Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) has long favored increasing or uncapping the user fee, a proposal that has met resistance from some, but not all, Republicans.

Committee Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-Mo.) repeated his view that all options to pay for infrastructure are on the table, but he remains skeptical of a PFC increase. Graves also questioned a recent airport industry survey on capital project backlogs. “We have to make sure that we’re talking about infrastructure needs, not infrastructure wants,” he said.

Unlike other transportation taxes and user fees, the T&I committee, not the Ways & Means Committee, has jurisdiction over the PFC rate. Given DeFazio’s support for an increase, any infrastructure package that comes from his committee will likely include a PFC rate hike.

DeFazio also urged increase funding for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), the main federal airport capital grant program. DeFazio said the Federal Aviation Administration projects needs for AIP eligible projects at $35 billion over the next five years, while funding over the same period had been authorized at less than half that level.

ARTBA has long supported increasing AIP funding and lifting the cap on the PFC. The association will continue working with our coalition and stakeholder partners to make sure any infrastructure bill includes language to address both.