After years of short-term, last-minute extensions to the nation’s airport operation and maintenance program, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act (H.R. 4) extending FAA programs for another five years through 2023.
The five-year bill, which the House passed by a strong 393-13 vote, would freeze authorizations for the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program (AIP) at the current $3.35-billion level through fiscal year 2023. While a disappointment, this level of airport funding was far more than proposed by many who were battling the FAA package’s long road to passage in the House.
Davis-Bacon repeal amendment trounced by bipartisan support. Package includes contractor prompt-payment reforms.
As part of the days-long debate on the important long-term airport program, SMACNA and its allies advocated toughening the prompt payment provisions for FAA procurement. The bipartisan coalition in the House agreed and added the stronger prompt payment language offered by Rep. Gwen Moore (D- 4th-Wisc.) on a voice vote.
A big battle over Davis-Bacon repeal was anticipated, and prevailing wage supporters on both sides of the aisle were ready to turn back an amendment for repeal by Rep. Steve King (R-4th-Iowa) including a special GOP coalition for Davis-Bacon led by Reps. Rodney Davis (R-13th-Ill.) and Mike Bost (R-12th-Ill.). After the debate and the votes were counted, the repeal forces suffered a crushing defeat by 71 votes, including a near-record 58 pro Davis-Bacon votes from the GOP.
A disappointing development surrounding the FAA package was the bill’s failure to increase funding for airport grants and remove the current cap on passenger facility charges (PFCs), an important infrastructure funding resource.
SMACNA is an active member of the Beyond the Runway Coalition for airport infrastructure and agreed with the coalition’s view that the legislation “misses a significant opportunity to provide airports with the resources to repair aging infrastructure, make needed investments in their facilities to accommodate rising passenger and cargo volume, and enhance air service competition for the benefit of passengers."
One adopted amendment would create a $5.3-billion, five-year discretionary grant program to fund infrastructure projects at rural, non-hub airports.
Even though a SMACNA-supported amendment from Rep. Lou Barletta (R-11th-Pa.) to increase AIP grants was not included in the final package, federal airport construction funding should be strong this year. The appropriations for airport infrastructure grants this year will climb by $1 billion to $4.3 billion due to the 2018 omnibus spending package.
Additionally, in the Senate, the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee passed a four-year FAA measure that has annual increases for AIP and included PFC revisions, which
would reach a budgetary total of $3.75 billion in its last year. The Senate panel’s bill, which has yet to have a floor vote, leaves the PFC limit at $4.50. The bill is expected to pass by the August Congressional recess, giving it time for resolution during this session of Congress.
SMACNA members can show their support for the FAA package by contacting their legislators on SMACNA’s Take Action webpage.