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James P. Hoffa

James P. Hoffa

Posted: January 28, 2010 12:22 PM

Senate Needs to Pass FAA Reauthorization

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Nearly one in five Americans who want a full-time job can't find one. That is a serious, serious problem. It's why the blue-collar voters of Massachusetts, who are suffering a 20 percent unemployment rate, sent Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate.

And it's why angry voters will be sending more newcomers to Congress unless lawmakers address the issue of jobs.

A good place to start is by passing a bill known as "FAA Reauthorization," which has been lying around the Senate for three years. It would modernize this country's aerospace infrastructure, stabilize the airline industry and improve runway safety and flight efficiency. And it is estimated that it would create at least 125,000 jobs a year for two years.

The bill also would authorize funding for the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA manages aviation in this country. Without the FAA, air travel as we know it would not exist.

One of the things the FAA does is to help pay for airport construction. The FAA Reauthorization bill would allow $34.5 billion to be spent on upgrading and expanding airports throughout the country. It is expected to create 125,000 jobs annually.

What's more, the funding comes from user fees -- including taxes on jet fuel and airplane tickets -- not from the federal budget.

The last time Congress approved new FAA spending was in 2003, for four years. The FAA would have had to shut down in 2007 if Congress hadn't extended authorization to spend at the same level through a series of short-term bills.

The House has already passed the new reauthorization and sent it to the Senate. There, FAA Reauthorization is meeting the same fate as so much other legislation: it's waiting to be acted upon.

At least 35 senators from both parties think FAA Reauthorization is a no-brainer. They wrote a letter in November to the Senate leadership urging swift passage of the bill. Three months later -- and three months closer to the construction season -- the bill is still stuck in the Senate.

If the Senate doesn't act quickly, another construction season may be missed. It isn't just the bill that will languish - it's 125,000 people who need jobs.

It's time to pass FAA Reauthorization.