Congress has averted a halt to Federal Aviation Administration airport construction grants by approving a six-month extension for FAA programs. The action came just two days before a previous 14-month stopgap measure was due to expire, but it puts off progress toward a multiyear FAA bill, probably until the spring.
Final congressional action on the new extension came on Sept. 28, when the House passed a Senate-amended version of the measure. President Trump signed the bill into law on Sept. 29.
For construction, a key part of the legislation, which carries through March 28, is its short-term reauthorization of the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants. The measure holds AIP at the fiscal 2017 annual rate of $3.35 billion.
The legislation also authorizes aviation taxes, such as the passenger ticket tax, at their current levels. It retains the $4.50 ceiling on passenger facility charges (PFCs), another important airport infrastructure funding resource.
Long-term FAA bills that cleared committee in the House and Senate in late June would increase AIP. The Senate commerce committee’s four-year version would raise the program’s funding to an average of $3.65 billion per year. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s six-year bill would boost AIP to an annual average of $3.62 billion. Neither committee bill would change the PFC limit.
The action by Congress came just in time. House transportation committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) noted that failing to pass the new extension would have prevented FAA from approving new AIP grants and halted the collection of about $40 million per day in aviation taxes.
Looking ahead to discussions on a multi-year FAA bill, a key issue will be Shuster’s proposal to spin off FAA’s air-traffic-control operations as a non-federal entity.