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President Obama Says Congress Was Wrong To End FAA Furloughs As They Did

Said Bill Passed Last Week Would Delay Needed Airport Improvement Projects

President Obama said during a news conference Tuesday that Congress essentially had a knee-jerk reaction to the possibility of delays at airports caused by furloughs of air traffic controllers, and that legislation allowing the FAA to shift funds from AIP grants would delay needed airport improvement projects.

"The fact that Congress responded to the short-term problem of flight delays by giving us the option of shifting money that’s designed to repair and improve airports over the long term to fix the short-term problem -- well, that’s not a solution.  And essentially what we’ve done is we’ve said, in order to avoid delays this summer, we’re going to ensure delays for the next two or three decades," the President said during a news conference.

Obama said that what congress should have done is work towards a long-term solution to the budget deficit, but that vetoing the legislation would not lead to a broader fix. " It just means that there would be pain now, which they would try to blame on me, as opposed to pain five years from now.  But either way, the problem is not getting fixed."

The Airports Council International-North America also expressed disappointment that AIP funds were going to be allowed to be used for controller salaries.

ACI-NA Board Chair David N. Edwards, Jr., the CEO of Greenville-Spartanburg Airport District, said that while the organization was "relieved" that the controller furloughs would be ending, it was "very disappointed that the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) was used to pay for this fix, as these funds were paid by passengers to maintain and enhance airport runways and taxiways, not fund FAA operations.”   
 
“ACI-NA supported other common sense bipartisan legislation that did not use AIP to eliminate the furloughs," Edwards said in a statement. "Airports agree that passenger delays and inconvenience cannot continue, but raiding capital funding to pay for FAA operations is unprecedented and does not take into account the need to make critical safety, security and capacity improvements.  Sadly, Congress missed an opportunity to allow airports to generate local funding for these necessary projects through raising the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) user fee, which would have offset the cut to AIP funding. 
 
“ACI-NA will continue to work with Congress to obtain critical infrastructure funding to ensure airports can meet passenger safety and security needs as well as continue to generate jobs and economic development in hundreds of communities throughout the United States.”

FMI: www.whitehouse.gov, www.aci-na.org

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