Politics & Government

House agrees with Senate on proposed funding for RDU runway

Air Force One arrives at Raleigh-Durham International Airport in Morrisville in April 2012 with President Barack Obama aboard. The runway that’s long enough to accommodate big jets like this will need to be replaced in the next few years.
Air Force One arrives at Raleigh-Durham International Airport in Morrisville in April 2012 with President Barack Obama aboard. The runway that’s long enough to accommodate big jets like this will need to be replaced in the next few years. Jim R. Bounds, AP

House and Senate budget writers agree on how much the state should give Raleigh-Durham International Airport for capital projects in the coming years.

The House’s budget released this week includes $156 million for capital projects for the state’s 10 commercial airports over the next two years. RDU would receive $21 million in 2017-18 and about $31 million in recurring funds starting in 2018-19. That mirrors what the Senate proposed for RDU in May.

The additional money for RDU would help pay for a $305 million project to replace the airport’s longest runway, which is needed to accommodate and attract new trans-continental and international flights.

“It’s clear that the state of North Carolina is serious about investing in aviation infrastructure,” said Kristie VanAuken, RDU’s vice president of communications and community affairs. “We are absolutely grateful for any new resources that come our way.”

The 10,000-foot runway will need to be replaced before it reaches the end of its useful life in the next 3 to 5 years. The new runway will be parallel to the existing one on the western side of the airport.

Without the new runway, the airport would be left with only one commercial runway, and at 7,500 feet, it isn’t long enough to accommodate trans-Atlantic or trans-continental flights. A new runway also would be needed if the airport hopes to attract a flight to China.

The House and Senate budget proposals differ by $66 million when it comes to capital funds for other commercial airports, including Charlotte Douglas International Airport. While the Senate did not allocate additional funding for the state’s largest airport, the House proposes providing $12.5 million per year.

Eight other commercial airports in the state, including Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro, Wilmington International Airport and Asheville Regional Airport, would also get more money under the House proposal.

“We had seen a downturn in federal funding coming down to assist and aid our airports in North Carolina, and we can only let that go on so far,” said Rep. John Torbett, co-chairman of the House’s transportation committee. “We believe it has gone far enough, and we are going to have to step up and aid and assist them to have them come up and be more economically competitive.”

The money for airport projects would come from a short-term motor vehicle lease and rental tax, which generates nearly $80 million per year. That money currently goes into the general fund, but the House budget proposes shifting all of it into the Highway Fund. The Senate’s budget proposes shifting only $10 million from the general fund per year.

“That really fixes the aviation hole ad infinitum,” Torbett said. “I felt it much better for us if we were going to ask for that to ask for it all at one time and see if we can be successful instead of trying to piecemeal.”

Sen. Bill Rabon, a Republican from Brunswick County and the chair of the Senate Rules Committee, said not transferring all of the short-term motor vehicle lease and rental tax revenues all at once allowed the Senate to propose a larger personal income tax cut.

“I believe that the Senate and the House, we are in agreement that we need to beef up our funding for our airports,” he said. “So we’ve got a lot of common ground.”

Other airports

The amount of money included in the House budget for other airports is based on the economic output of each airport, according to the budget. Here’s what the airports would receive in the coming two fiscal years:

▪ Albert J. Ellis Airport in Onslow County: $2,002,538 in nonrecurring funds in 2017-18 and $1,629,729 in recurring funds, starting 2018-19.

▪ Asheville Regional Airport: $4,692,689 in nonrecurring funds in 2017-18 and $3,819,059 in recurring funds, starting 2018-19.

▪ Coastal Carolina Regional Airport in New Bern: $1,512,628 in nonrecurring funds in 2017-18 and $1,231,025 in recurring funds, starting 2018-19.

▪ Concord Regional Airport: $1,359,178 in nonrecurring funds in 2017-18 and $1,106,142 in recurring funds, starting 2018-19.

▪ Fayetteville Regional Airport: $2,639,310 in nonrecurring funds in 2017-18 and $2,147,954 in recurring funds, starting 2018-19.

▪ Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro: $16,496,024 in nonrecurring funds in 2017-18 and $13,424,987 in recurring funds, starting 2018-19.

▪ Pitt-Greenville Airport in Greenville: $873,239 in nonrecurring funds in 2017-18 and $710,670 in recurring funds, starting 2018-19.

▪ Wilmington International Airport: $13,772,262 in nonrecurring funds in 2017-18 and $11,208,303 in recurring funds, starting 2018-19.

House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, and chief budget writer Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, discuss GOP fiscal priorities as embodied in the budget proposal working its way through the N.C. House of Representative this week.

Kathryn Trogdon: 919-829-4845: @KTrogdon

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