FAA Budget Cuts Funding To 2,500 Airports

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If there ever was an example of why AOPA and other alphabet groups want the FAA to continue to answer to Congress, the details of the latest FAA budget proposal offer illumination. In what FAA Administrator Marion Blakey has called "tough medicine for local programs," the agency has proposed cutting more than $750 million from airport improvement activities, including the $150,000 "entitlement grants" handed out unconditionally to more than 2,500 small GA airports. AOPA President Phil Boyer says the grant is often the only money small airports have for runway and equipment maintenance and improvements. The agency tried something similar with the 2006 budget but Congress restored the funding. AOPA is tuning its strategy for a similar result this go-around. AOPA has already revved up its lobbying machine and is finding support on both sides of the Senate. "I am very concerned about [what] cuts to the AIP program formula will mean specifically to the construction needs of airports," Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond (R-Mo.), chairman of the appropriations transportation subcommittee, told FAA Administrator Marion Blakey during a May 4 hearing. At the same hearing, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said the FAA "deserves a better budget" and criticized the agency's current direction and management.