Entries in Ray LaHood (5)


LaHood to Congress: Don't Rest Until FAA Shutdown Is Resolved

TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Monday that lawmakers should not go on their summer vacations until they pass legislation to end the Federal Aviation Administration shutdown, saying it was not fair for Congress to hold workers hostage.

“I’m urging Congress… to take action to pass legislation so that people can go back to work and negotiations can begin on whatever the sticking points are that members of Congress feel they need in a final FAA bill,” LaHood said on a conference call. “Do not go on your vacations until this issue is settled.”

It’s been over a week since the FAA shut down for the first time in history after Congress failed to pass a bill to continue its funding. For ten days now, nearly 4,000 FAA employees have been furloughed and as many as 70,000 construction workers have been out of work.

Now that a deal to raise the debt ceiling has been reached, LaHood said that “Congress has the ability, they have the time to pass an FAA bill before they leave on their summer vacation” and he called on Congress to pass a clean extension through the end of September.

“To hold hostage, construction workers… [and] FAA employees is just simply not fair when Congress has the ability to pass the 21st extension the way they have done on 20 other occasions without any controversy,” he added.

In the meantime, the Secretary insisted that safety has not been compromised as a result of the shutdown. However, to keep things running smoothly roughly 40 FAA safety inspectors across the country are continuing to work for free.

“Because Congress has failed to act, these inspectors are doing their job without pay. They’re traveling around the country to airports at their own expense,” FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Huerta said on the call.

LaHood did not back away from chastising airlines for continuing to charge customers a federal tax on tickets and pocketing the money for themselves. “I don’t think it’s right for them to collect this amount of money under the idea that it’s a part of the taxes that are collected, because they’re not being collected,” he said. “That money is going directly into the coiffeurs of the airlines and costing passengers.”

Asked if there is a chance that customers could get a refund, LaHood said he is working with the Treasury to “figure this out.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


FAA Shutdown: 4,000 Furloughed For One Week and Counting

(WASHINGTON) -- A week after funding for the Federal Aviation Administration expired, there is still no end in sight to the partial shutdown that has sent 4,000 employees home without pay, shuttered 219 airport construction projects and cost $200 million in lost tax revenue.

But with Congress entrenched in the debt-ceiling battle, there is not much light at the end of the runway.

“For all the talk around here about debt and deficit, that money is being lost to the Treasury, and we're trying to figure out if it can be made up or not,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told reporters at a White House briefing Thursday. “So for people who really care about debt and deficit, pass a clean bill.  Let's get back on track, let's get our workers back to work, let's get construction projects going again, and let's start collecting the tax that goes into the federal Treasury.”

LaHood stressed that airline safety will not be compromised and air traffic controllers, plane inspectors and test pilots will all continue working because safety operations are funded through the Treasury Department’s general fund.

Engineers, project developers and construction managers, on the other hand, are funded through the FAA’s Airport and Airway Trust Fund, which Congress has not reauthorized the FAA to draw from.

Without reauthorization, the FAA cannot continue to collect the 7.5 percent federal excise tax on airline tickets or the $3.70 take-off tax applied to every flight.  Together, these taxes cost consumers about $57 on a $500 round-trip ticket with one layover each way.

Almost every major airline is now pocketing that would-be tax money, having raised base ticket prices so consumers pay the same amount despite airlines’ no longer paying those taxes to the IRS. Only Sprint, Hawaiian and Alaska airlines are passing the tax savings along to customers, according to USA Today.

Jean Medina, a spokeswoman for the Air Transport Association, said the airline industry is collecting about $25 million per day from the price increases.

“The good news for consumers is ticket prices are the same as they were last week,” Medina said.

Medina pointed out that as a whole, airlines are losing more money than they are making, posting a loss of $400 million from January through June.

“Airlines can’t continue to fly customers if they are losing money,” Medina said.

The airlines have until Aug. 3 to report how much they increased fares after the FAA partially shut down and how much money they are making from the increased fares.  

The congressional reauthorization stalemate revolves around labor union voting rights and rural airport subsidies. Republicans, who passed a FAA funding bill through the House in April, want to cut $16.5 million worth of airport subsidies and reverse a labor law from last year that allows airline employees to unionize with a simple majority vote.

Traditionally, employees who did not cast a ballot were counted as “no” votes. The new law only counts the votes that were cast, making it easier to unionize.

Democrats refuse to take up the House’s bill and want both measures removed from any reauthorization bill.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


LaHood Urges Congress to End FAA Shut Down

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood urged lawmakers Thursday to end the Federal Aviation Administration shut down, saying now is not the time to be furloughing federal workers or losing critical airline tax revenue.

The FAA shut down for the first time in history after Congress failed to pass a bill last week to continue its funding. Since then, nearly 4,000 employees have been furloughed and as many as 70,000 construction workers are out of work.

“Congress needs to pass a clean bill so our 4,000 FAA employees who are without a paycheck since last Saturday can come back to work,” LaHood told reporters at the White House briefing Thursday.

“For all of my friends on Capitol Hill who give speeches every day about jobs, the importance of jobs, putting people to work, this is not the time to be laying off 70,000 construction workers.”

LaHood said he believes unresolved labor and air service issues could be worked out over the next 30 days and he called on Congress to pass a clean extension of the FAA bill, which they have done 20 times in the past.

“Don't hold hostage common, ordinary citizens who want to work, who want to do construction jobs, who make their living doing that, and our FAA employees,” he said, while reiterating that flying is still completely safe.  

The Secretary also chastised airlines for continuing to charge customers a federal tax on tickets and pocketing the money for themselves. “They're collecting this money and it's going to their bottom line.  And I think that is not right, and I simply think it's not fair for them to do that… And I’ve made that known to them,” he said.

Asked if there is a chance that customers could get a refund, LaHood said “we’re trying to figure that out.”

The standoff, which is costing roughly $200 million a week in lost airline tax revenue, amounts to “real money to the Treasury,” LaHood noted.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


FAA Faces Potential Shutdown If Congress Doesn't Pass Bill Friday

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood urged Congress to pass the FAA reauthorization bill by midnight Friday in order to avoid a partial shutdown of the aviation agency.

“We have now reached a breaking point,” LaHood said in a press conference Thursday.  “This is no way to run the best aviation system in the world.  We need Congress to go to work, to put our employees back to work and to get the FAA bill extended or passed for the benefit of the American people.”

LaHood warned Congress that the government could lose up to $200 million a week in airline taxes along with halting projects at airports nationwide if they do not pass the reauthorization of the FAA by midnight Friday.  If an extension or bill is not passed, approximately 4,000 FAA employees will be furloughed, including employees who collect taxes from airlines and construction workers assigned to airport projects.

“Without swift action from Congress, $2.5 billion for airport projects around the country will put thousands of people in good-paying jobs, hard-working people, out of work because this money will be suspended.”

Legislators are at an impasse over a labor provision in the bill, which would make it more difficult for transportation workers to unionize.

Despite a potential shutdown looming, LaHood assured the public that safety will not be compromised if the FAA shuts down.

“Air traffic control will continue and the safety of the flying public will not be compromised.  We cannot afford to wait.”

Air traffic controllers are deemed essential safety personnel, exempting them from the impact of a shutdown.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Government Announces $2B for High-Speed Rail Projects

TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- High speed rail projects in 15 states are being awarded more than $2 billion in grants from the federal government.

Transportation secretary Ray LaHood said Monday that the funding will help create “thousands of quality, middle class manufacturing construction jobs right away.”

"These are tremendous transportation projects and investments that America cannot do without," LaHood said, noting that not only will the projects help create jobs, but also relieve congestion in some of the country's most trafficked areas. The biggest chunk of the money -- nearly $800 million -- will go to improve rail service in the crowded northeast corridor.

"We simply cannot build enough highways and airports to accommodate this growth," LaHood said. "If we settle for the status quo, our children and grandchildren will fight paralyzing congestion, remain dependent on foreign oil, and suffer from an economy stuck in neutral."

LaHood said there were $10 billion in requests for the $2 billion of available money.

"Once built, it will spur economic development along its corridors, and over the long run it will restore America's economic competitiveness by complementing our highways and airways with world class railways."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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