Republican bill would slash U.S. air traffic budget

WASHINGTON Fri Feb 11, 2011 7:34pm EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Proposed legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives would roll back funding for air traffic control and would eliminate a popular airline subsidy that ensures service to small communities.

The four-year, $59 billion measure released late on Friday touts more than $4 billion in savings consistent with Republican aims to slash domestic spending and provides funds to take the next steps in modernizing the government-run air traffic system.

"This legislation increases the efficiency and effectiveness of our aviation programs while ensuring that the U.S. aviation industry remains competitive in the global marketplace and continues to be the safest system in the world," Rep. John Mica, chairman of the House Transportation

and Infrastructure Committee, said in a statement.

Companion legislation is working its way through the Senate.

Both chambers will now consider similar proposals to roll back funding of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) operations to 2008 levels -- or roughly $200 million to $300 million annually in reduced spending -- to roughly $9 billion per year from 2011 through 2014.

The FAA would not comment on efforts to cut its budget, but some ardent supporters of the agency in Congress have said that the sharp reductions could lead to furloughs and a reduction in services to thousands of airline and private flights each day.

The bill requires the agency to find savings without undermining safety.

The proposal also would eliminate a $170 million government subsidy given to airlines annually to ensure passenger service to rural communities.

The Essential Air Service is a byproduct of 1970s-era airline industry deregulation that is utilized in more than 150 remote communities in 30 states and crucial to a handful like Alaska and West Virginia.

Republicans looking for opportunities to fulfill a November 2010 voter mandate for spending cuts and reduced budget deficits honed in on the program that has been under attack for years by some conservatives as outdated and underperforming.

Subsidized flights mainly carried out by small and regional airlines are not always filled compared with airline flights from larger airports that are almost always packed.

Some EAS flights receive thousands in subsidies while others nearly cover their own costs without the help.

A similar provision has been attached to the Senate bill.

Several contentious provisions that helped derail aviation legislation last year were not included in the bill.

These included a proposal that would have ended antitrust immunity agreements among U.S. and overseas airlines and a proposal that would have made it easier to organize ground workers at package delivery giant FedEx Corp.

(Reporting by John Crawley; editing by Carol Bishopric)

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Comments (3)
ROWnine wrote:
There are rule sets about how much time between planes landings but nobody follows them. The equipment needs upgrades and just like McNamara thought a hub system for military parts was the way to go during our Vietnam police action the hub system poses its own set of problems rarely solved by government because the fees are not tied to needs but to outmoded and inflexible budget systems. Want to check up on this sad state of affairs first have a look at the medical records and life expectancy charts for air traffic controllers. Maybe the guys that control the purse string will think about this on their next commuter hop. This smells a lot like when a school budget needs reworking and no one is willing to change the laws and regulations that get in the way the board proposes no sports or busses.

Feb 11, 2011 10:34pm EST  --  Report as abuse
calady50 wrote:
Republicans suddently want to slash all domestic spending while they were in they cut nothing and borrowed heavily from China to finance these horrible wars we can’t win. They want to lay of Federal employees and slash all domestic spending while keeping foreign aid and stacks of money like that sent to Iraq untouched. Who is going to stand up for real Americans. I hope you don’t think it is the Republican party. They are the champions of big corporate abusers who ship our jobs overseas. We need a new American party! The goal should be meaningful employment and quality healthcare. Don’t be stupid people.

Feb 11, 2011 10:40pm EST  --  Report as abuse
varela wrote:
I guess the party of “NO” hasn’t changed… NO to investing in America! NO to reducing military spending! NO to getting rid of tax breaks for the top 10%! NO to spending on air traffic control! NO NO NO!

Feb 12, 2011 3:56pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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