ATLANTA (WAOK)-Atlanta leaders are concerned about the effects of the Congressional stalemate that has caused a partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration. So far 336 employees in Metro Atlanta have been effected but the long term toll could be much higher. While air traffic controllers and safety inspectors continue working, some other FAA operations have been shut down.
To make matters worse for the general public, now that the FAA has stopped collecting about $200 million per week in airline taxes, many large carriers including Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines have raised fares and will make even more money instead of passing on the tax savings to their customers.
Delta officials are blaming the high cost of jet fuel on their decision to pocket the tax savings saying in a written statement, “Given the high cost of jet fuel, Delta has been competitive with other airlines that increased their base fares following the expiration of funding for the Federal Aviation Administration to adjust for the taxes no longer being collected.”
Georgia Congressman John Lewis released this statement:
“Atlanta is home to the busiest airport in the world,” said Rep. John Lewis. “This shut down means 334 employees are now on furlough, and $67 million in construction projects hang in the balance in our district. The American people must see that political gain has trumped a commitment to good public policy in this instance. There are members of Congress willing to jeopardize the livelihood of millions of Americans in order to see who blinks first. They are unwilling to reach the kind of compromise that has made this system of government an example to the rest of the world. This is not responsible leadership. Members who are truly concerned about the federal deficit, would never allow a lapse in revenue that amounts to $200 million a week. The inaction of House leadership on these and other matters suggests a reckless disregard for their own stated mandate for greater fiscal responsibility.”
Meanwhile Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed expressed his dismay over the lack of an FAA bill and commented on the impact on the city and the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson International.
“The failure of Congress to pass a Federal Aviation Administration bill on Friday means that cities across the nation will bear a significant economic burden. While the FAA shutdown has no immediate, direct impact on the operations at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport or its passengers, it likely will delay several of the city’s federal grant applications. Not receiving FAA grants in a timely fashion impacts the city financially and puts pressure on our overall accounting position.
Early last week, we were notified that we were to receive $10 million, the last installment payment from the federal government for the fifth runway Hartsfield-Jackson. On Friday, the FAA then informed us that the payment had been delayed. The shutdown also is likely to cause a delay in the review of our current proposal to acquire land needed for the airport’s Runway Protection Zone, which consists of approximately 60 acres just east of the northernmost runway at a cost of about $39 million.
Last week, airport officials also submitted an application to the FAA for approximately $209 million to cover 11 projects such as terminal expansion, airfield pavement replacement and land acquisition. The FAA has 30 days to deem the application complete and another 60 days to approve it, but the shutdown will likely impact that schedule. This could lead to construction delays and loss of jobs.
Getting more Americans back to work should be a top priority for Congress. It is vital to our economy; it is vital to the thousands of middle-class families who will see paychecks stop; and it is vital for the efficacy of our transportation system. Hartsfield-Jackson is the busiest passenger airport in the world. We cannot afford to wait – Congress needs to do its job, come back to Washington and pass an FAA bill.
The FAA shutdown began at midnight last Friday and could lead to construction jobs lost in every state and FAA aviation experts furloughed in 35 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.