$60 Billion For Aviation

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Reauthorization, Or What's Behind Door #2?...

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) claims an influential congressman is trying to create two new classifications of control towers: Democrat and Republican. NATCA President John Carr said his organization is outraged by a deal proposed by Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee, that would involve guaranteeing the retention of FAA-staffed towers in states represented by Republican senators who switch their vote and support the FAA Reauthorization Bill in its current form. "He wants to play Monty Hall and Let's Make a Deal (with air safety)," said Carr. Originally, both the House and the Senate supported provisions in the bill that guaranteed all existing FAA-run towers would remain in government hands. A conference report changed the language to allow 69 so-called VFR towers to become privatized. It also says the balance of the system is to remain government-run through the end of the bill's authority in 2007. Pre-conference language stipulated that ATC remain a government function in perpetuity. The political scrap that has ensued has held up the $60 billion bill, which was supposed to have been passed by the end of September, and put a hold on all the capital spending for airport improvements it contains. A continuing resolution that pays for the day-to-day operation of the agency runs out Oct. 31. Both sides have been beating the political bushes trying to shore up votes and Mica's towers-for-votes proposal is the latest, and most extreme, example. Mica told Aviation Daily he's willing to remove up to 30 towers from the list of 69 in exchange for support for the bill from Republican senators who originally voted in favor of the anti-privatization provisions. He said he's targeting Republicans because "we're not getting any Democratic support" for the reauthorization bill. Mica said he would take it "tower by tower" if necessary to appease anti-privatization Republican senators.