The threat of funding cuts facing four Idaho airports may be averted if Congress approves a bipartisan measure seeking to redirect federal transportation funding to keep the airport towers open through Fiscal Year 2014. Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch are co-sponsors of S. 687, introduced by Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), and now co-sponsored by a bipartisan group comprising nearly one-third of the U.S. Senate.
The legislation seeks to stop cuts by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that would remove contracted control tower service in many small cities around the nation, including Idaho airports in Idaho Falls, Lewiston, Hailey and Pocatello. In announcing the cuts, FAA officials cite the sequestration process mandating a reduction in federal spending. Crapo and Risch argue federal officials have the ability to redirect existing funding to maintain these essential control towers.
"The FAA is ignoring public safety in making these cuts in such a draconian way and a large bipartisan group of thirty Senators is on record noting this is the wrong approach," Crapo said. "There are ways to keep FAA towers open using unobligated research and capital funds from prior appropriations bills,but the FAA has not endorsed these alternatives. This legislation, which is growing in support, will change the situation."
"There are a number of alternatives for the FAA to pursue if they want to keep these towers open. For whatever reason, they have chosen to play politics with this issue. This bipartisan legislation makes it abundantly clear that these towers are not to be closed," said Risch.
Crapo and Risch supported the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011, requiring across-the-board spending reductions in federal government programs. They argue the FAA has flexibility in how these reductions are administered and ignoring that flexibility is causing the American people to feel all of the harmful effects of sequestration.
For Fiscal Year 2013, the estimated sequester is $85 billion and would apply to federal agencies and programs unless otherwise exempted by laws like the Moran FAA bill. On March 5, 2013, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta sent a letter to just under 200 airports participating in the FAA Federal Contract Tower (FCT) Program, including the four in Idaho, notifying them that they would no longer receive funding as part of the Agency's $637 million sequestration cuts. Senators supporting the bill are pushing the Senate Majority leader to set a vote on the bipartisan bill.