By Mary Grady, Contributing editor
The federal government plans to invest more in NextGen and fund the rehabilitation or reconstruction of 150 miles of runways and other airport facilities as part of a $50 billion infrastructure effort that would create jobs, President Barack Obama said in a speech in Milwaukee on Monday. The six-year plan would not add to the federal deficit, but would be paid for via a new Infrastructure Bank that Mr. Obama says will leverage federal dollars and focus on the smartest investments. If Congress goes along, the plan would reform "the haphazard and patchwork way we fund and maintain our infrastructure ... to focus less on wasteful earmarks and outdated formulas, and more on competition and innovation that gives us the best bang for the buck," the president said. He proposed a "robust investment" in NextGen, to help move from a radar-based system to one based on satellite technology. AOPA was quick to respond to the president's remarks.
"We appreciate the recognition in President Obama's infrastructure announcement of the critical role aviation plays in the nation's transportation system," AOPA President Craig Fuller said in a statement on Monday. "AOPA will work to support the President's infrastructure program to ensure the monies are used effectively at airports across the country and to advance the modernization of our air traffic control system as part of the FAA's NextGen initiative." Fuller added that general aviation must not be forgotten as new technologies are brought online. "As Congress and the Administration proceed, it is vitally important that they both remember that general aviation is an integral part of the national transportation system, and that the key to the success of NextGen is a commitment by the government to invest in new technologies for all users," he said. The initial $50 billion to fund the plan would come from higher taxes levied on oil and gas companies, according to the Washington Post. The American Association of Airport Executives also welcomed the plan. "Greater funding for infrastructure is the right move and now is the right time, for jobs, for the economy and for future generations of Americans," said AAAE President Charles Barclay. "Passing along a healthy infrastructure is an obligation of each generation, and properly designed infrastructure funding pays dividends as a foundation of economic activity over many years," Barclay said. "Investment and consumption are different and we should recognize that fact in our debates about federal spending." Barclay called on Congress to support the plan.