The House appears poised to use at least $3.5 million in federal money to reimburse airports in Florida and New Jersey for financial losses suffered when President Donald Trump stays at his resorts nearby.
The language, included in the House’s appropriations bill for transportation spending, appears to target at least three general aviation airports near Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., and Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla.
Those airports virtually close when Trump visits because they fall within a “no-fly zone,” said Jim Coon, senior vice president of government affairs and advocacy for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.
Together, the airports — Somerset Airport in Bedminster Township, Solberg Airport in neighboring Readington Township, and Lantana Airport in Palm Beach County — and their businesses told AOPA that they suffered more than $1 million in losses last year because of Trump’s stays.
By their count, Trump stayed at either residence about 80 days out of the year.
Lawmakers could decide to strip or modify the language, but its inclusion in a major funding bill at this point in the process suggests it has a good chance of being passed by the House.
The draft House bill stipulates that the Department of Transportation must use at least $3.5 million to reimburse “airport sponsors that do not provide gateway operations” as well as the businesses at each airport. Gateway airports are those that have established security procedures and pilot vetting that allow them to operate even with temporary flight restrictions.
The bill covers presidential residences that are “designated or identified to be secured” by the Secret Service.
Reps. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.) and Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) are the forces behind the proposal.
“It is a matter of fairness that airports and businesses grounded by no fault of their own see some type of compensation,” Lance said in a statement. “Protecting the president and First Family is the highest priority, but accommodations should be made for those where livelihood is reduced when the president is in town.”
Lance and Frankel also took a stab at the issue as part of the House-passed FAA bill. The legislation includes language they sponsored mandating that the FAA study the economic effects of flight limits on airports and businesses, especially in relation to presidential visits.
The FAA would also have to study the idea of letting “properly vetted” pilots fly to or from Solberg, Somerset and Lantana when temporary flight restrictions are in place, based on a program for a trio of general aviation airports in the Washington area.