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FAA reauthorization bill increases funding for airports in local communities
Kirill Abbakumov   on Friday, July 14, 2017 at 9:00:00 am

On June 21, 2017, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) introduced the new FAA reauthorization bill which extends the current one-year extension expiring on September 30 to a new six-year period, providing more long-term certainty regarding aviation policy. The main objective of the new 21st Century Aviation Innovation, Reform and Reauthorization Act (21st Century AIRR Act) remains the intention to privatize air-traffic control, there are several provisions that provide positive developments for county governments.

The bill contains several key features for local governments. The Essential Air Service (EAS) program, which supports commercial flights for the nation’s most rural communities, would see increased funding each year throughout the bill’s lifetime. In fact, the final year of the authorization would fund EAS at $350 million, almost double the current funding level. This vital program to connect the nation’s most rural communities with larger transportation hubs will ensure continued travel options for county residents as well as key opportunities for economic development.  In his FY 2018 budget blueprint, President Trump had advocated for the program’s elimination.

Also included in the bill is the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), a key grant mechanism to assist airports in starting new projects, would see an increase in the 21st Century AIRR Act. Funding levels under the bill would increase each year through 2023, in total raising AIP funding from the current level of $3.35 billion to slightly more than $3.8 billion, which amounts to a $467 million increase.

On June 27, 2017, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved the bipartisan 21st Century AIRR Act (H.R. 2997). However, Congress remains divided on the issue of air-traffic control privatization, with only the House advocating for privatization, while the Senate leaves air-traffic with the FAA. Despite contention, the new reforms are expected to cut red tape to ensure manufacturers can get products to market on time, stay competitive, and continue to employ millions of Americans, as well as encourage American innovation in aviation technologies to promote a stronger workforce.