In December 2019, lawmakers passed two packages of must-pass appropriations bills including one (H.R. 1865) that contained funding for the Department of Transportation, the Federal Aviation Administration and other federal agencies.
• Traditional AIP Funding: The final FY20 spending package included $3.35 billion in “traditional” AIP account. Of that amount, $116.5 million would go toward administration expenses, $15 million for the Airport Cooperative Research Program, and $10 million for the Small Community Air Service Development Program. Another $39.2 million would go toward Airport Technology Research.
• Supplemental AIP Funding: The final bill includes another $400 million for supplemental discretionary grants that would be available to airports of all sizes. The latest annual funding bill brings the total supplemental discretionary funding for airports to just under $2 billion over the past three fiscal years.
• Priority Consideration: The FAA reauthorization bill, which Congress passed in 2018, requires the FAA to use not less than 50 percent of supplemental AIP funds for projects at small hub, non hub and nonprimary airports. The joint explanatory statement accompanying the final FY20 spending bill “directs the FAA to restrict this set-aside to 50 percent, and use the remaining funds for grants at medium hub and large hub airports.”
The statement accompanying the final FY20 spending bill also “directs the FAA to provide priority consideration for grant applications that complete previously awarded discretionary grant projects, and to provide priority consideration based on project justification and completeness of pre-grant actions.”
In February 2019 Congress passed H.J. Res. 31, a package of FY19 spending bills that contained funding for DOT and numerous other federal agencies. The measure included $3.35 billion in regular AIP funding and another $500 million for supplemental discretionary grants. Unlike the FY18 DOT/FAA spending bill, the FY19 measure did not include language requiring DOT to give “priority consideration” to certain nonprimary, nonhub and small airport projects.
The FY18 omnibus spending bill included $3.35 billion in traditional AIP funding and an additional $1 billion in supplemental funding for airport infrastructure projects, which the FAA has distributed through AIP discretionary grants. (That extra $1 billion for airports was made available after Congress approved a two-year budget deal in early 2018. That agreement expires on October 1, 2019.)
For the $1 billion in supplemental discretionary funding provided in FY18, DOT was required by Congress to give priority consideration to projects at “(a) nonprimary airports that are classified as Regional, Local, or Basic airports and are not located within a Metropolitan or Micropolitan Statistical Area as defined by the Office of Management and Budget, or (b) primary airports that are classified as Small or Nonhub airports.” The federal share for projects at nonprimary airports is 100 percent.
FAA Reauthorization Bill:
In late 2018, Congress approved H.R. 302, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018. The bill authorized $3.35 billion annually for AIP through FY23. That flat funding is particularly disappointing since airports have enormous infrastructure needs, and the legislation failed to raise the federal cap on local PFCs.
The FAA bill also authorized -- but did not guarantee -- more than $1 billion annually for construction projects at airports smaller than large hubs. That proposed revenue would need to come from general fund instead of the Airport and Airway Trust Fund and compete with other transportation programs as part of the annual appropriations process.
The final FAA bill also included some programmatic changes. For instance, it included two Senate provisions regarding the minimum entitlement. One would allow certain airports to continue to receive the minimum entitlement even if their enplanements dip below 10,000. The other would allow commercial service airports with more than 8,000 enplanements to receive $600,000 in AIP entitlements.