In a bipartisan effort to halt further furloughs of air traffic controllers that are causing delays and massive headaches for the traveling public, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Mark Udall (D-CO) today introduced legislation that would provide the Secretary of Transportation the flexibility to avoid further furloughs of essential employees at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
"The Reducing Flight Delays Act" would give the Secretary of Transportation the flexibility to transfer funds into the FAA's operations budget to prevent essential employees, such as air traffic controllers, from being furloughed. This would help reduce flight delays while maintaining a safe and efficient national airspace system. The bill would also direct the Secretary to fully fund and continue operating the Contract Towers Program.
"The challenges the FAA faces this fiscal year are daunting; not only is the agency operating under a continuing resolution but sequestration compounds the problem. It is important that sequestration is implemented in a way that ensures safety and minimizes the impact on the traveling public as well as jobs in the hospitality and airline industries," said Senator Collins, who is Ranking Member of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee. "FAA recently announced its plans to achieve savings by implementing furloughs, the closure of contract towers, and the elimination of midnight services, among other cuts. These irresponsible cuts have already caused widespread delays to the air transportation system and are expected to get worse. Our bipartisan bill would restore the funding for these essential programs, and I am pleased that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has said that this is an effective, workable solution."
"Our airports are some of the most important job creators and commerce boosters for Colorado and our nation. Significant flight delays not only hurt travelers across the country, but they hurt our economy. The bipartisan legislation I authored with Sen. Collins will help replace the indiscriminate effects of sequestration and give the U.S. Department of Transportation the flexibility it needs to put air traffic controllers back to work and ensure that these cuts are not a drag on our economy," Udall said. "We need to reduce the deficit and cut federal spending, but we should not allow sequestration to cripple travel, tourism, business and commerce - all critical parts of our ongoing economic recovery."
In recognition that the arbitrary nature of the sequester would result in unacceptable outcomes for constituents, Senators Collins and Udall introduced legislation in March that would have allowed the federal government to propose more targeted cuts while also allowing for appropriate congressional oversight. Adoption of that legislation could have prevented many of the problems being reported including the FAA furlough issue. The bipartisan legislation introduced today provides more narrow flexibility in response to an urgent problem. The bottom line is that providing for a rational level of flexibility to implement the sequester is a commonsense solution which should be adopted without delay.