The Oak Ridge Airport project has received $2 million in funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission, and that money wouldn’t be affected by the president’s proposal to eliminate the independent agency in the next fiscal year, a spokesperson said.
But future funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission will depend upon what Congress decides to do with ARC and whether it continues funding the commission, said Becky Huckaby, spokesperson for the Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority.
The budget request released by President Donald Trump on Tuesday, May 23, proposes to eliminate the Appalachian Regional Commission and other independent agencies, providing funding only for the orderly closure of the agencies. The request would apply to Fiscal Year 2018, which starts October 1.
ARC is one of the funding sources for the Oak Ridge Airport, which could cost an estimated $35 million to $40 million and have a mix of state and federal funding, and local funding from the Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority, or MKAA. Besides ARC, other direct and indirect funding sources include the U.S. Department of Energy, which would provide the land; the Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA; the Tennessee Aeronautics Commission; and the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
The Appalachian Regional Commission and other independent agencies that the president’s budget proposes to cut can award federal grants for regional development. Besides ARC, the independent agencies include the Delta Regional Authority, the Denali Commission, and the Northern Border Regional Commission.
“The proposed elimination of the regional commissions reflects the need to reduce unnecessary federal spending and streamline the federal government’s role, while encouraging states and localities to partner with the private sector to develop locally tailored solutions to local problems,” according to a “Major Savings and Reforms” budget document published by the Office of Management and Budget, or OMB, part of the Executive Office of the President.
During a recent visit to Rocky Top, U.S. Representative Chuck Fleischmann, a Republican whose district includes Oak Ridge, said he supports ARC.
“ARC has done a very good job throughout my district,” Fleischmann said.
The president’s budget request appears unlikely to pass without changes, with both Democratic and Republican legislators pronouncing it “dead on arrival.” But the request can give insight into the administration’s priorities. Still, federal officials, including U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, have pointed out that while the president suggests a budget, Congress actually writes the legislation.
The president’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2018 has mixed news for Oak Ridge, at least in terms of funding. Some sites such as Oak Ridge National Laboratory could have their funding cut, while others such as the Y-12 National Security Complex could see an increase.
The proposed Oak Ridge Airport would be built on the south side of Heritage Center, the former K-25 site in west Oak Ridge. It would have a 5,000-foot runway running parallel to State Route 58 that would accommodate nearly all corporate aircraft.
Officials have said that, if all goes well, construction could start in late 2018 or early 2019, and it could take about 1.5 years.
You can see information on the proposal to eliminate ARC on page 103 of this OMB document.
You can see our previous story on the Oak Ridge Airport here. It includes more information about the proposed airport.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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