By SEN. MIKE CRAPO
The top issues constituents have contacted me about recently include concerns about funding cuts by the Federal Aviation Administration that would remove contracted control tower service in many small cities across the nation, including Idaho airports in Idaho Falls, Lewiston, Hailey and Pocatello. The following is my response:
The Budget Control Act of 2011 requires across-the-board spending reductions in federal government programs. For fiscal year 2013, the estimated sequester is $85 billion and would apply to federal agencies and programs unless otherwise exempted by law.
On March 5, 2013, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta sent a letter to just under 200 airports participating in the FAA Federal Contract Tower (FCT) Program, including the four in Idaho, notifying them that they would no longer receive funding as part of the agency’s $637 million sequestration cuts. It is disappointing that the FAA had the authority to make these cuts in a number of ways that would not have had such a dramatic effect on rural communities, but chose to instead administer them in this draconian way.
I am a co-sponsor of Sen. Jerry Moran’s (R-Kansas) bipartisan bill to keep the FCT Program funded, S. 687, which he introduced on April 9. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, where it awaits further action. I also cosponsored a bipartisan amendment to the Continuing Resolution offered by Sen. Moran to keep the towers open using unobligated FAA research and capital funds from prior appropriations bills. Unfortunately, the senate majority leader would not allow a vote on the amendment.
On March 14, I also sent a letter, along with my colleagues in the Idaho delegation, to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood asking for a delay in any final decisions on the closure of contract towers to allow for the opportunity to present our concerns about the closures and to provide us with a list of other possible actions considered to achieve the cuts required under sequestration. Our letter remains unanswered. We are confident that a wide range of potential actions were considered prior to settling on the disproportionate impacts scheduled to be imposed on contract towers. The cuts necessitated by the sequester will have profound impacts on many Idaho constituents, but essential services should be spared where possible. That is why Congress recently passed legislation to avert air traffic controller furloughs and contract tower closures. I will continue to work to address this issue to help prevent the loss of needed services.
This country has been on a spiraling path that we can no longer sustain. There is no question that our current debt and projected future debt is both unsustainable and unacceptable. We must develop a strategy that is comprehensive in its scope and sustainable for the future. I will continue to work toward a resolution to this issue.
Sen. Mike Crapo, a Republican, is Idaho’s senior U.S. senator.