Now that September is here, students are heading back to school and the U.S. Congress is reconvening in Washington. That’s a good thing, because lawmakers have a lot to accomplish in a short period of time this fall.
Among the items on Congress’s packed agenda: FAA reauthorization, Export-Import Bank renewal, the extension of some provisions in the tax code, and appropriations bills, all of which are important to general aviation manufacturers. I want to briefly touch on each of these issues.
Back in June, U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) announced plans to introduce a transformational FAA reauthorization bill. One of the areas he highlighted was reform of the FAA’s certification process. Such reform would make it easier for general aviation manufacturers to bring new, safety-enhancing products to market by helping the FAA and industry to manage their scarce certification resources more effectively and efficiently.
But three months later, no bill has been introduced in either the House or the Senate, and we now have fewer than 30 calendar days until the current authorization expires. No one in the aviation community wants a repeat of what happened with the last reauthorization bill: 23 short-term extensions over a four-and-a-half-year period. We simply cannot let that happen again, and Congress needs to figure out how to get reforms in certification and other areas in place quickly.
Just as pressing is the need for Congress to renew its support for the Export-Import Bank, whose authorization expired on June 30. In general aviation manufacturing alone, the Bank has provided guarantees of more than $1.9 billion since 2012—allowing companies to continue to recover after the recession and ensuring workers throughout the United States stay employed. With 50 percent of manufactured aircraft being sold outside of the United States, the Bank’s support is critical.
Perhaps most importantly, the Bank allows U.S. companies to compete on a level playing field with businesses in the rest of the world, since more than 60 other countries have similar export credit agencies. Furthermore, the Bank has reliably returned funds to the U.S. Treasury, including $675 million in 2014 alone. Lawmakers should act quickly to advance U.S. competitiveness and stop the hemorrhaging of jobs.
A third item on Congress’s to-do list is the extension of important elements of the tax code. General aviation manufacturers are particularly interested in a continuance of the popular Research and Development tax credit, as well as a measure that allows for bonus depreciation for equipment, including aircraft. Congress approved all three provisions in 2014, but only for a year. We need greater certainty in the tax code, and we need it sooner rather than later.
As important as all of these issues are to general aviation manufacturers, we know that Congress has a full plate, and a limited timetable, this fall. After all, there are still many appropriations bills to pass, including the one that funds the FAA, controller workforce, and safety inspectors and engineers. Other issues will no doubt arise that require Congress’s attention and response as well. And the 2016 campaign drumbeat will only grow louder as the year marches on.
Still, Congress has an opportunity to make significant progress on legislation that will affect thousands of general aviation manufacturing employees. All of this legislation contains common-sense ideas that enjoy wide bipartisan support. If Congress is looking for some accomplishments to take back to voters that make a real difference in people’s lives, they would be hard-pressed to find better examples than these. That’s something that every school kid can understand, and every member of Congress who wants to sustain and grow manufacturing jobs should as well.
Bunce is president and CEO of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.