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4,000 FAA employees face furlough

July 21, 2011 at 11:05 AM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, July 21 (UPI) -- The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration says failure to extend its funding could lead to the furlough of 4,000 workers, beginning Saturday.

A stopgap funding extension for the FAA, the 20th such measure, is about to expire, and the congressional stalemate over a long-term funding bill to keep the United States operating past Aug. 2 is complicating the issue, The Washington Post reported.

FAA officials said air traffic controllers would remain on the job, but because it won't be able to collect tax revenue that supports the system when it runs out of funds, non-essential employees could face furloughs.

"Summer is the busiest travel time of the year," said former FAA administrator Marion C. Blakey, now president of the Aerospace Industries Association. "No one wants to see the FAA turned upside down, especially now."

House Democrats seeking to put the funding in place bypassed Transportation Committee Chairman John L. Mica, R-Fla., with a direct appeal to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. They urged Boehner to schedule a conference committee meeting to resolve differences in long-term bills passed by the House and Senate.

Among the sticking points are disagreements on three issues: federal subsidies for flights to rural airports, the number of flights that should be allowed at Washington's Reagan National Airport and anti-union restrictions in the House bill.

"Your attempt to punish the Senate by hurting small-community air service has backfired," Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va., told Mica in a letter. "This language only guarantees that the Senate will reject the FAA extension."

Mica targeted the Essential Air Service program in a House spending proposal. He included in the provision language to eliminate EAS subsidies to 13 airports within 90 minutes of a larger airport.

Three of the airports are in the home states of Senate leaders Rockefeller, Harry M. Reid, D-Nev., and Max Baucus, D-Mont.

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