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"Many Questions About Money Remain After Financing Is Restored for F.A.A."
Friday, August 5, 2011
Many Questions About Money Remain After Financing Is Restored for F.A.A.
By EDWARD WYATT
The New York (NY) Times
WASHINGTON - It took the Senate all of about 30 seconds on Friday to approve
a bill that will put 4,000 employees of the Federal Aviation Administration
back to work on Monday. Calculating the cost of the 14-day standoff will
take much longer.
Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress, meanwhile, made clear on
Friday that the fight was not over. The bill, signed into law by President
Obama within hours of its approval, expires on Sept. 16.
Among the costs, of course, is the $388 million, as calculated by the
American Association of Airport Executives, in lost revenue from ticket and
fuel taxes that the federal government could not collect during the
And there could be the salaries of about 3,960 F.A.A. workers who were
forced out of work for two weeks and have not been guaranteed that they will
receive back pay.
The transportation secretary, Ray LaHood, said Friday that "as a matter of
fairness, we will also do everything we can to get Congress to provide our
furloughed employees with the back pay they deserve." The 40 airport safety
inspectors who were required to work during the shutdown have been promised
Thousands more construction workers lost income because the F.A.A. halted
more than 250 of its own building projects, and many airports asked crews to
stop work on airport improvement efforts that they were financing out of
their own pockets with the expectation that they would be repaid by the
While the government lost revenue on airline ticket taxes, passengers who
paid those taxes will not receive refunds, the Internal Revenue Service said
Friday. That reversed its earlier position that passengers could apply for
refunds if they had paid the tax before the F.A.A. shutdown on a ticket that
was used during the last two weeks.
"The impasse was an unnecessary strain on local economies around the country
at a time when we can't allow politics to get in the way of our economic
recovery," Mr. Obama said Friday in a statement.
While the nation's economy will gain some benefit from the return to work of
those idled, the impact was not likely to be as big as many politicians made
it out to be. Repeated assertions that 70,000 or more construction workers
had lost their jobs because of the F.A.A. shutdown were almost certainly
The figure came from the Associated General Contractors of America, which
estimated last month that 70,000 "construction and related jobs" were at
risk in an F.A.A. shutdown. The estimate, based on research by Professor
Stephen Fuller of George Mason University, included 24,000 construction
workers, 11,000 workers in "service and supply businesses" and 35,000 jobs
that "will be undermined in the broader economy, from the lunch wagon near
the job site to the truck dealership across town."
Any nuance in that estimate was quickly lost in the parade of dueling news
conferences and press releases that Democrats and Republicans used to cast
blame for the F.A.A. impasse by pointing fingers across the aisle. Even
after a CNN.com article debunked the idea on Thursday morning that 70,000
construction workers had lost work, Democrats and Republicans continued to
cite the figure.
The interim financing measure passed by unanimous consent by the Senate on
Friday is the 21st short-term measure passed by Congress since the last
long-term bill expired in 2007. Both the House and the Senate have approved
long-term measures this year, and there are only about a dozen differences
remaining between the two bills. Those could be big enough, however, to keep
a long-term agreement on ice.
Senator Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who is the majority leader,
addressed one of those issues on Friday when he said that the F.A.A.
employees had been forced out of work "because Republicans were holding
their jobs hostage to try and jam through a favor for the C.E.O. of one
He was referring to Delta Air Lines, which has lobbied Republicans to roll
back a National Mediation Board rule that makes it easier for unions to
organize airline workers. Delta said this week that it had never pushed for
an F.A.A. shutdown.
Representative John L. Mica, a Florida Republican who is chairman of the
House Transportation Committee, fired off his own warning on Friday.
"If the Senate refuses to negotiate on the few remaining issues, they can be
assured that every tool at our disposal will be utilized to ensure a
long-term bill is signed into law."
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