A New York Times editorial took on Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI) today for insisting that subsidies should end for passenger flights to airports that are within 90 miles of a medium or large hub airport or where the subsidy exceeds $1,000 per passenger. As an example, subsidies for flights to and from Ely, NV, come to $3,720 per passenger.
Petri, the Chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee, helped to include the budget cut in legislation the House sent to the Senate July 20 to extend the ability of the Federal Aviation Administration to collect airline ticket taxes and perform other non-essential activities.
The Senate Democratic leadership has refused to take up the bill, resulting in furloughs at the FAA. The Times editorial board was quick to lay blame, first by quoting Petri and then objecting.
"'If we can't put an end to these extravagant subsidies, then we will never be able to rein in spending where really hard decisions are necessary,' said Tom Petri, the chairman of the House aviation subcommittee, upon submitting the bill. Talk about pound foolish. When the F.A.A. lost operational authority, it lost its ability to collect $200 million in taxes a week. These taxes would have paid for airport subsidies in about 14 hours," the Times wrote.
"In other words," Petri responded, "the New York Times is fine with waste because, what the heck, the waste can all be covered with taxes. What's not okay for the Times is a situation where taxes aren't collected. This is the kind of mentality that has contributed a great deal to the current debt crisis."
"The Times then conflates the subsidy issue with a disagreement the House and Senate are having over union organizing, but the labor issue was not a part of the FAA extension that the Senate is refusing to take up. The Times would be much smarter if it dealt with the issue before it on its own merits," Petri said.
"The House and Senate have been wrangling over FAA reauthorization bills since the last reauthorization expired in 2007. Even when the Democrats controlled both chambers, they still couldn't reach agreement. The result has been an astounding 20 temporary extensions of the old FAA law, and now the Senate leadership is refusing to consider a new extension purely and simply in defense of subsidies for nearly-empty flights to less-than-remote airports. Yet, the Times places the blame with 'Republican obstructionism.' Absurd!" Petri said.