U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced new legislation that would end the flight delays Americans have faced since sequestration forced the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to furlough air traffic controllers across the country. The legislation would close a tax loophole for corporate jets, and use that funding to reinstate air traffic controllers nationwide. More than 1,200 flight delays on Monday were attributed to furloughed air traffic controllers from sequestration. Flights at New York's JFK and LaGuardia airports on Monday were delayed up to two hours or longer as a result of furloughs.
"Instead of protecting tax breaks for wealthy corporate jet owners who don't need them, we should be keeping commercial air travel fully operational for middle class families and small businesses," Senator Gillibrand said. "These wasteful tax breaks are blowing a hole in our budget, adding to uncertainty and slowing economic growth. Closing this loophole is just common sense, and will save us billions of dollars that we can invest right now to keep control towers up and running, keep flights on time, and keep our economy on the move."
As a result of the failure to find a bipartisan compromise, the FAA has had $232 million cut from the FAA operations budget for Fiscal Year 2013, which funds air traffic control. As a result, the FAA announced that its entire workforce of around 47,000 -- including 15,000 air traffic controllers -- will be furloughed for one day each pay period. This will result in a 10 percent reduction in workforce capacity. Additionally, 149 air traffic control towers will be closed effective June 15 due to sequestration cuts. Because there will be less air traffic controllers on the job, the FAA is estimating that this could mean a potential of 3,800 ground delays or more daily. On Monday, the first day furloughs were in effect, the FAA reported that furloughs resulted in the delay of more than 1,200 flights.
To combat this, Senator Gillibrand is introducing legislation to fully fund the FAA's operations for the remainder of 2013. The funding will come by closing a tax loophole for corporate jet owners.
Currently, the recovery period for corporate jets -- airplanes not used in commercial or contract carrying of passengers or freight -- is five years, while the recovery period for airplanes and other assets used in commercial or contract carrying of passengers or freight generally is seven years. Because of the shorter recovery period for depreciating, corporate jets are given a tax preference.
Senator Gillibrand's legislation would eliminate the preference for these airplanes over similar commercial transportation airplanes, making them both subject to a seven year recovery period. It is estimated that this would save $2.702 billion over the next 10 years, which would more than pay for the air traffic controllers.