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Hagerstown Herald Mail - Signal From the Airport - We Need a New Flight Plan

Op-Ed

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

By Representative Delaney

The indiscriminate budget cuts known as "sequestration" will soon be felt in Maryland and in Washington County. Last week it was announced that air traffic control towers at the Hagerstown and Frederick airports will likely be closed. The flickering signal sent from these closing control towers should be read correctly: We need to change course or prepare for a bumpy landing.

The Frederick and Hagerstown airports bring more than $200 million into the local economy and support thousands of jobs. Without an operating tower, traffic will likely move elsewhere and contractor activity will be imperiled. This same scenario is playing out across the country, which is why economists estimate that sequestration will cost America 750,000 jobs. Sequestration also will mean harsh cuts in education and research funding that is needed to help us compete, millions in cuts to our loans program for entrepreneurs, fewer children enrolled in Head Start and fewer seniors receiving Meals on Wheels.

The tower closings in Hagerstown and Frederick also illustrate how sequestration is the wrong way to reduce government spending. Recently, both the Frederick and Hagerstown airports have received significant federal funding to upgrade. In Hagerstown, the runway was expanded, which was essential to growing the airport's economic footprint. Thus, 2012 was the busiest year at the airport in the last decade. We're expanding the runway and then closing down the tower. This is no way to govern.

I've urged the FAA to find a solution and will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress toward a better outcome. We are fortunate to have Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee on our side, fighting for the Hagerstown airport. Now that sequestration is a reality, we should focus on three steps we can take to avoid this scenario again, strengthen our fiscal health and help create jobs in Western Maryland.

First, until we reach a long-term grand bargain to reduce our debt, we will continue to lurch from crisis to crisis. Inevitably, bad outcomes like sequestration will continue. Coming from the private sector, I believe we would be best served by a grand bargain that reduces the deficit in a balanced way. This should include additional revenues through measures like the Buffett Rule, appropriate entitlement reforms and smarter spending cuts. This will lead to an increase in private sector confidence and investment. Capital will start flowing again, businesses will grow and more Americans will have good jobs.

Second, depending on federal spending can no longer be Maryland's economic plan. We must prepare for lower future outlays. Government spending was cut by $1.5 trillion in 2011 and another $1.1 trillion in 2013 with sequestration. Undoubtedly, more cuts are coming.

Maryland has become overly dependent on federal spending, while the business climate has suffered. In 2011, my Blueprint Maryland study found that Maryland was fifth in federal spending per capita, but just 44th in private-sector job growth. Western Maryland has seen this discrepancy first-hand. Instead, we need to leverage our strengths to make our state more attractive to businesses and develop a strategy to connect Western Maryland to the thriving Washington to Boston corridor.

Finally, we have to invest in our future so that our workers, job creators and businesses can thrive in a global marketplace. Unfortunately, sequestration will cut many of the areas that we should be investing in, including research, education and infrastructure.

Sequestration is bad for Western Maryland and bad for the country. Our challenge is now to respond appropriately, guided by the facts before us. In cloudy political weather, we should heed the signals from the tower.


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