FAA faces midnight deadline to avoid its shutdown
WASHINGTON - The government will lose about $200 million a week in airline ticket taxes and $2.5 billion in airport construction projects will be halted if the Federal Aviation Administration is forced to shut down, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said yesterday.
A shutdown looks increasingly likely because Congress has not been able to agree on legislation to extend the FAA’s operating authority, which expires at midnight tonight.
If that happens, airlines would no longer collect federal ticket taxes. About 4,000 FAA workers whose jobs are funded with ticket tax revenues will be furloughed, LaHood told reporters at a press conference.
“This is no way to run the best aviation system in the world,’’ LaHood said. “Congress needs to do its work.’’
Long-term authority for the FAA expired in 2007. Unable to agree on long-term funding legislation for the agency, Congress has kept the FAA operating through a series of 20 short-term extension bills.
The previous 20 extensions have been routine. But this time House Republicans added a provision eliminating government subsidies for airline service to 13 rural communities. Senate Democrats say the provision is unacceptable, but House Republicans have been unwilling to remove it.
If there is not an extension, the largest furlough would initially involve nearly 1,000 workers at FAA headquarters in Washington, transportation officials said.
Another 647 workers at FAA’s technology and research center in Atlantic City, and 124 workers at the agency’s training center in Oklahoma City, would also be furloughed.
Air traffic controllers, considered essential safety personnel, would remain on the job.
LaHood refused to answer questions about the potential consequences if a shutdown were to continue for more than a few days.
The situation could be a financial boon for airline passengers. Barring an agreement, the taxes will disappear from airline and ticket-selling websites at midnight.