State steps up to cover federal airport grant gap
The FAA’s new long-term reauthorization reverts the federal government’s match of Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding to pre-2003 levels, which could threaten local ability to match funds for some airport projects. However the Virginia Aviation Board and Department of Aviation have taken steps to ensure their airports won’t suffer.
The new AIP federal match will cover 90 percent, instead of 95 percent, of the funding for a project, leaving the state and local levels to come up with the remaining 10 percent. The Vision 100 Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act that was passed in 2003—the last long-term FAA funding until a four-year plan was signed into law in February—had increased the federal match to 95 percent so that the state and local levels only needed to come up with a combined 5 percent.
Virginia aviation officials immediately recognized the threat and acted to increase the commonwealth’s share from 3 percent to 8 percent so that local entities would not need to pay more than the current level, set at 2 percent. In addition, officials decided the commonwealth would cover an estimated $1.8 million of funding for airport projects that had been approved under the previous funding levels but would receive less federal support under the new reauthorization.
“At a time when many small communities and airports are struggling as a result of the economic downturn, the [Virginia Aviation Board’s] willingness to increase its own support of airports is critical to ensuring the our aviation infrastructure remains intact and that the economic benefits of a strong aviation culture continue to accrue to the people of Virginia,” wrote AOPA President Craig Fuller, commending the board for its proactive approach.
AOPA encourages other states to consider increasing their share of AIP funding to offset the reduction in federal dollars so that small airport communities aren’t forced to defer needed improvement projects because they can’t come up with a larger share of the cost.
“This relieves the pressures on airport sponsors, especially those in smaller communities,” said John Collins, AOPA manager of airport policy.
March 1, 2012