Nearly four thousand employees of the Federal Aviation Administration will be furloughed and collection of federal airline taxes will end tonight at midnight after the House of Representatives failed to agree on terms to extend the FAA’s authority.
While air safety is assured, the partial shutdown of the agency was preceded by a Congressional battle over a $16.6 million federal subsidy for 13 rural airports, located in the districts of powerful Democratic Senators. The shutdown will be the first for the FAA in nearly a decade.
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Senator Barbara Boxer criticized the action, decrying the loss of hundreds of jobs for Californians, as well as $131.5 million in federal funding for California aviation projects that will be delayed. The pay lost by FAA workers will not be retroactive without special legislation from Congress.
“By choosing to play politics with our nation’s aviation system, Republicans will deny paychecks to hundreds of California workers and delay more than $130 million in California airport construction projects,” Boxer said. “Republicans should help us pass a clean short-term extension and join us to negotiate in good faith so that we can pass a long-term FAA Reauthorization bill.”
The House and Senate have passed separate versions of long-term FAA Reauthorization bills this year and negotiators have been working to reach an agreement between the two bills. During that process, short-term extensions have been necessary to keep the FAA operating. Today, rather than pass a necessary, clean, short-term extension to keep FAA employees on the job while negotiations continue, Republicans objected.
The failure to pass an extension means that starting at midnight tonight, the FAA will be forced to furlough 4,000 FAA employees nationwide – including 206 employees in California, many of whom work at the FAA’s Western Pacific Regional headquarters in Los Angeles.
The GOP’s refusal to approve an extension will also mean that $131.5 million in investments in California airport construction projects will be delayed, which could threaten jobs in local communities. The failure to pass an extension will shut down the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program (AIP), which supports $3.5 billion in infrastructure projects at airports annually and is estimated to support more than 150,000 jobs each year.
Without reauthorization, approximately $200 million a week in airline taxes will not be collected or deposited into the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF), the primary source of funding for FAA’s capital programs and FAA operations.