Congressional Inaction Causes Job Losses
Congress’ inability to enact a new FAA reauthorization bill or to even pass a short-term continuation of Vision-100, the current authorization law, has left the agency in a state of disarray and resulted in lost jobs throughout the country.
The showdown between the House and Senate came to a head on July 22, when Congress failed to enact a new extension before the previous one concluded. Since Vision-100 expired in 2007, the agency has been operating under a series of short-term extensions. All but one of the prior continuations simply extended the FAA’s operating authority without any policy changes.
House Transportation & Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-FL) ignited a firestorm of political controversy when he unveiled the agency’s 21st extension (H.R. 2553) with reforms to the Essential Air Service (EAS) program. EAS provides subsidies to small remote airports to help airlines recoup the service costs they lose in providing service. House Republicans elected to include provisions excluding funding for communities located less than 90 miles from the nearest hub airport or with an average per passenger subsidy rate of $1,000 or more in legislation continuing agency operating and funding authority through Sept. 16.
While the 90-mile provision was included in the Senate-passed FAA bill, the subsidy language was not, prompting Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), the President, and others to oppose House-passed extension with the EAS provisions attached. Rockefeller and House T&I Democrats introduced “clean” extensions (S. 1387, H.R. 2644), but they have languished in their respective chambers.
Where do we stand now? We have an old-fashioned House v. Senate battle with no easy resolution. The House strongly supports their extension with the EAS program cuts and Senate Democrats (who control a majority of the chamber) refuse to consider any continuation that contains policy (particularly policy that will allow House Republicans to claim a victory).
The biggest question among the aviation community in Washington, D.C., is how will failure to extend Vision-100 impact the FAA? There is not an easy answer, though most agree that the longer the stand-off drags on, the worse the consequences.
Aircraft controllers will continue to work. Planes won’t be grounded. However, about 4,000 “non-essential” employees have been furloughed. Without operating authority, the agency can no longer collect a number of taxes that support aviation infrastructure projects. This has led the FAA to issue stop work orders on 188 aviation infrastructure projects. These stop orders have put more than 70,000 construction workers out of work. A number of taxes that support infrastructure projects have expired, meaning construction has stopped at many airports. Airlines are no longer collecting ticket taxes, costing the FAA about $30 million a day in lost revenue. Will inspections and certifications be delayed? That remains to be seen.
The House and Senate must put politics aside and enact a long-term FAA bill. Congress created the agency and it must do its job to ensure the agency has the resources and operating authority to function properly.
We need to ensure lawmakers don’t use future extensions as a vehicle to enact provisions detrimental to repair stations. Click here to use ARSAaction.org to send a note to Capitol Hill urging Congress not to use FAA extensions to detrimentally impact repair stations, but to come together and immediately pass a new multiyear FAA bill.
~~~ posted 07/29/11 ~~~