6-Month FAA Extension Includes Hurricane Tax Relief, Health Care, Flood Insurance Provisions

September 22, 2017 – edited 4:15 p.m. to describe new version with hurricane victim tax relief. Edited 10 p.m. to reflect schedule change. Edited 12:45 p.m. Sept. 25 to reflect Leader Pelosi’s opposition to the bill.

House Republican leaders last night released the text of a draft bill extending Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorities and taxes for six months. The draft bill is scheduled to be considered by the House on Monday under the expedited “suspension of the rules” procedure, which requires a 2/3 vote for passage but prohibits amendments from being offered. The legislation was altered at 3:40 p.m. on Friday September 22 to add a new title V containing targeted tax relief for victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

This will be the fourth extension of aviation policy and funding provisions since the expiration of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 in September 2015. (For a complete list of all FAA authorization and extension laws of the last 20 years, see here.)

According to the schedule released at 6 p.m. Friday by the Majority Leader,  the FAA extension will be debated on the House floor on Monday afternoon, September 25. (Expect debate on the bill to occur sometime between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., with a vote (if demanded) postponed until after 6:30 p.m.) House passage of the legislation (which, under these procedures, will require substantial Democratic support, which at this point appears forthcoming appeared forthcoming until Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) issued a statement of opposition late Monday morning – read it here) would then force the Senate to pass the bill by unanimous consent by Friday evening or else force a shutdown of the FAA programs funded by the Airport and Airway Trust Fund starting Saturday, October 1.

(Such a shutdown would not include air traffic control services, which receive substantial support from the general fund of the Treasury as well and which are classified as being necessary services exempt from shutdowns. Such shutdowns are not unprecedented – see the roughly 2-week gap in summer 2011 between extensions 20 and 21 in this list.)

Following is a brief overview of the extension legislation.

Disaster Tax Relief and Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2017

Title I of the bill includes provisions within the jurisdiction of the Transportation and Infrastructure committee. This title extends all existing FAA funding authorizations and expiring policy provisions through March 31, 2018. The only funding actually provided by this title is $1.67 billion in contract authority for the Airport Improvement Program (one-half of the FY 2017 rate of $3.35 billion). The other authorizations in the title are for programs that are funded by the Appropriations Committees.

Title II of the bill includes provisions of the jurisdiction of the Ways and Means Committee. This extends the spending authority of the Airport and Airway Trust Fund and the existing excise taxes on airfares, air cargo transportation, aviation fuels, etc. that support the trust fund. If these trust fund provisions are not extended, authority to make payments from the trust fund will expire on October 1 and airlines will begin to receive a $300 million a week tax cut beginning on the same date.

Title III of the bill extends several minor healthcare-related provisions that were not extended in the FY 2018 continuing resolution and also extends payment authority for the Medicare Improvement Fund from FY 2020 to FY 2021.

Title IV of the bill amends the Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973 to allow the use of private flood insurance.

Title V of the bill allows victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria to cash-out tax-deferred retirement funds without penalty in certain circumstances, allows employers to use employee retention credits for employees affected by Harvey/Irma/Maria, temporarily suspends limitations on charitable contributions for hurricane relief, imposes special rules for qualified disaster-related personal casualty losses, and allows persons affected by the hurricanes to use special rules in determining their earned income for 2017. Any losses to the Treasury from these provisions are declared to be an off-budget emergency and exempt from PAYGO calculations. A summary of title V from the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee is here.

Bill text is here.

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