Removing Barriers to Infrastructure Investment

As do virtually all State of Union addresses, President Obama’s speech Tuesday evening spanned a wide range of themes encompassing both foreign and domestic policies, priorities, and prerogatives.  But if there was unifying thread throughout, it was that 15 years into the 21st century—and six years on from the largest global recession since the Great Depression—the United States is thriving.

One particular aspect that I was very pleased to hear the president mention at several key points was infrastructure:  “21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure — modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest internet.”  I couldn’t agree more, and it’s easy to see that airports absolutely fit into this conversation.  As we said in our countdown infographic on Tuesday, “Roads, rail, water, and air are what move American opportunity.”  Comprehensively investing in all our modes of transportation, and especially modernizing how we fund this infrastructure, strengthens the backbone of our economy and our global reputation as a country where products, services, and ideas flourish unobstructed.

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But there is one element to the president’s vision regarding infrastructure that, unfortunately, could hamper progress in modernizing our airports.  It relates to an important source of funding for airport capital improvement projects: municipal bonds.

Although not explicitly mentioned in Tuesday’s State of the Union, President Obama has proposed to permit private entities to issue public municipal bonds.  Airports long have been open to idea of increasing opportunities for public-private partnerships—or P3s—as one approach to getting serious about tackling necessary capital improvement projects.

On the other hand, though, President Obama also has called for significantly increasing the cost of municipal bonds for public entities—such as airports—by proposing that tax deductions for municipal bond interest be capped for certain investors.  In short, this would mean that bond investors would then demand a higher rate of return from the bond issuer.  And this, in turn, would make the cost of the infrastructure projects that municipal bonds help fund only more expensive.

The U.S. in 2015 arguably is on far better footing economically than we’ve been in recent years, so it’s incongruous to me that we’d now want to create barriers to investment.  Instead we should be fostering easier market access and local control for airports to finance the new construction and upgrades they’ll need to keep pace with future demand and expectations.  Removing the tax-deduction cap on municipal bonds from his upcoming proposed budget—as well as also removing the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) burden from private activity bonds, a form of municipal bonds—would be an exceptionally strong signal from President Obama that he is as optimistic about the future of our airports as I am.

Kevin M. Burke
President and CEO
ACI-NA

State of the Union 2015: A Future for Airports?

Like other industries, the airport community will be closely watching President Barack Obama’s annual State of the Union address tonight.  And while we won’t know for certain what will be in the speech until the president delivers it, we expect our nation’s transportation infrastructure to be a major topic in tonight’s televised and webcast national update from Capitol Hill.

With so many key transportation items on tap for this year, including the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund and reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration, the president would be amiss if he didn’t share his vision for modernizing our aging transportation infrastructure.

As such, we hope the president takes this primetime opportunity to outline his plan to work with Congress on achieving real success for America’s aviation system.  But regardless of what we hear tonight, ACI-NA and our partners aren’t skipping a beat when it comes to keeping the drumbeat going for airport priorities on Capitol Hill.  With the buzzword being that both the House and Senate are seeking to craft a “transformative” FAA reauthorization, our entire commercial aviation system is in play, and absolutely including airports.

To follow ACI-NA’s response in real time this evening, head to twitter.com/airportscouncil beginning at 8:30 p.m. Eastern.

George Kelemen
Senior Vice President, Government and Political Affairs
ACI-NA

Connecting the Dots: Building the Beyond the Runway Coalition

This past summer, ACI-NA held our first event for what would become the AirportsUnited “Beyond the Runway” coalition.  Held at DCA’s historic terminal, representatives from more than 30 organizations and associations heard ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin Burke explain the importance of airports to our economy and the interests represented in the room that day.

ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin Burke shares with attendees of the July 2014 event the amount of airport capital improvement projects necessary by 2017.

ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin Burke shares with attendees of the July 2014 event the amount of airport capital improvement projects necessary by 2017.

A few months later, in October ACI-NA hosted a follow-up recruitment event seeking to further our reach and grow the Beyond the Runway Coalition.

Kevin Burke greets Beyond the Runway coalition members at the October 2014 event.

Kevin Burke greets Beyond the Runway coalition members at the October 2014 event.

From the vantage point of today, I find it very inspiring that in less than year, the Beyond the Runway Coalition has gone from concept to fruition.  Through the culmination of planning and outreach, we have seen businesses and organizations outside the normal players join us in our efforts for modernizing how we fund airport infrastructure and capital improvement projects.

Last week, in a sense, was the public debut of this coalition, through the AirportsUnited ad in Politico.  It also was an announcement that the coalition’s work is far from complete—in fact, it’s just the beginning.  In the months ahead, the Beyond the Runway coalition will continue to grow and take action on behalf of airports.  Our partners understand the importance of a healthy and competitive commercial aviation system to their businesses and industries, and they’re motivated to act.  And as this coalition strengthens and more dots are connected between our partners and the economic potential of airports, the fuller the picture that will emerge.

Nathan Pick
Director of Advocacy
ACI-NA

Cleared for Landing: January 5-9

This first week of January may have seen the temperature plummet in Washington, but our AirportsUnited efforts certainly heated up.

On Tuesday—which also was the first day of the 114th Congress—ACI-NA, the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), and the U.S. Travel Association (USTA) sent a letter to the leadership of the House and Senate committees overseeing the 2015 FAA Reauthorization.  The airport industry’s priorities are clear: modernize the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) local user fee and maintain the Airport Improvement Program (AIP).

On Thursday, the AirportsUnited “Beyond the Runway” coalition—which is comprised of more than 20 associations and organizations representing a broad range of interests—sent their own letter to House and Senate committee leadership.  “We firmly believe that modernizing airport infrastructure is the best option for strengthening our nation’s aviation system to meet the needs of today and the challenges of tomorrow,” the coalition wrote.

Also on Thursday, AirportsUnited ran a full-page ad in the print edition of Politico, showcasing our unified message and coalition partners:

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ACI-NA’s social media channels this week, too, featured robust AirportsUnited activity.  Several of our coalition partners engaged with us and our campaign’s messaging on Twitter, and our fiscal-year countdown infographics encouraged our audience to contact their members of Congress.  Visit www.airportsunited.com to see how you can get involved.

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But our most popular post on Facebook this week was the announcement of the latest additions to the North American Airport Trading Card series—a.k.a. #AirportCards: Indianapolis International Airport and Prince George Airport in British Columbia.  We’d be very surprised if our friendly bit of trivia that Prince George had ever-so-slightly nudged Edmonton International Airport from the top spot as the northernmost participating airport—and which EIA shared with their Facebook followers—wasn’t a factor:

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Finally, Instagram gave us a glimpse into another busy—and cold!—week at several member airports.  This photo from Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, though, proved that while it might be dreary outside, inside the terminal is a different world altogether:

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Caroline O’Reilly
Senior Manager, Communications and Marketing
ACI-NA