Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood repeated his warning that 4,000 Federal Aviation Administration employees will be furloughed Friday night if the U.S. Congress fails to pass a “clean” extension of the agency’s authorizing legislation.
LaHood said that the government will lose about $200 million weekly in airline taxes, and about $2.5 billion in Airport Improvement Program projects also will be stalled.
The FAA employees slated to be furloughed comprise slightly more than 8 percent of the agency’s workforce of 48,000, according to the federal Office of Personnel Management.
LaHood told reporters on Thursday that Congress has extended the FAA law 20 times without additions since 2007, and the Obama administration would leave it to lawmakers to work out a new deal. He said lawmakers still have time for a quick passage, and that the president would sign it.
The House on Wednesday passed an FAA extension that included a provision to curtail some $12.5 million annually in the Essential Air Service program. Democrats denounced the measure as a political ploy to gain leverage on FAA reauthorization.
Americans for Tax Reform fired back, accusing senators of subsidizing unprofitable airports in low-population areas so they would have a way to fly home from Washington.
“The EAS provides subsidies that make air travel to remote, formerly unprofitable, locations available – in effect, underwriting flights home for Members of Congress who don’t reside close to a big city airport,” the group said. The EAS cost $200 million in fiscal 2010, or about $3,720 per passenger.
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