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Tuesday
Aug022011

FAA Set to Lose $1 Billion After Senate Fails to Pass Funding

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Federal Aviation Administration will lose more than $1.2 billion in uncollected taxes alone, after the Senate adjourned Tuesday for a month-long "district work" period without passing a bill to re-fund it.

Funding for the FAA expired on July 22, shutting down not only the administration's tax collecting but also construction and maintenance projects across the country. About 75,000 workers have been laid off as a result.

While the House passed both a short-term and a long-term funding bill in the spring, the Senate did not approve either because of objections to riders in the two bills.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid initially expressed optimism Tuesday that the upper chamber may take up the House's short-term funding bill, despite Democrats' opposition to the rider that cuts subsidies to rural airports.

"I do my best to protect the state, but sometimes you have to be reasonable," Reid said. "As we learned with this big deal we've just done, sometimes you have to step back and find out what's best for the country and not be bound by some of your own personal feelings."

But by 6:30 p.m. ET Reid's optimism had dissipated and he called for the Senate to adjourn without asking consent for an FAA funding bill because, he said, the Democrats "tried for days now" to convince Republicans to drop the riders and pass a clean extension.

"Four thousand air travel employees are out of work and safety inspectors are working without pay because Republicans are playing reckless games with airline safety," Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson said.

"There is bipartisan agreement that we should keep air travel employees and safety inspectors on the payroll while we work out our policy differences, but we are being blocked by a handful of Republicans," Jentleson said. "We should not let ideology interfere with making sure that Americans' air travel runs as smoothly and safely as possible."

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, who supported a clean reauthorization despite also supporting the House's bill, pointed out on the Senate floor Monday that the math "just doesn't add up."

While Congress fights over $16.5 million in airport subsidies, the federal government is losing twice that amount per day in uncollected taxes. That loss will jump to more than $1 billion before Congress returns after Labor Day, which would be enough to fund the entire airport subsidy program for five years.

"I cannot think of anything more irresponsible," Hutchison said.

The shutdown carries a hefty price tag for the federal government as well.

Without Congressional reauthorization, the FAA cannot collect airline ticket taxes, resulting in a loss of about $200 million per week.

In addition to the lost tax revenues, the shutdown has sent 4,000 FAA employees and 70,000 construction workers around the country home without pay. It has also halted 248 construction projects and prevented $2.5 billion in construction grants from being paid out.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio