Jewish World Review August 3, 2011 / 3 Menachem-Av, 5771
Congress goes from one bind to another
By Dale McFeatters
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | We had hoped that Congress had gotten the "my way or the highway" approach to legislating out of its system in the bilious run-up to the votes on raising the debt ceiling.
Since June 23 a similar impasse, although on a much smaller scale, is costing the government roughly $30 million a day in uncollected taxes on airline tickets. With the House taking its August recess and the Senate preparing to leave, the deadlock may not be broken until September, costing the government -- meaning us -- over $1.2 billion in lost revenues.
This current mess is collateral damage from a much larger mess: the failure of Congress to enact a new multiyear transportation-funding law to replace the one that expired in 2007.
The Federal Aviation Administration's operating authority expired along with the law, but Congress has kept it in business through a series of 20 short-term extensions.
But Senate Democrats balked at an extension approved by the newly ascendant House Republicans because it cut $16.5 million in subsidies for rural air service and because they made clear they were going to overturn a ruling by a federal labor panel that the GOP believes would make it easier for airline and rail employees to unionize.
The upshot is that the FAA furloughed 4,000 employees -- the air-traffic controllers, deemed essential to public safety, have remained on the job -- and work has stopped on over 200 airport construction projects, upgraded control towers, improved runways and the like. Restarting these idled projects will inevitably increase their final costs.
Assuming the $30 million-a-day figure in lost revenues is correct, as of Tuesday the government was out $330 million. According to the Associated Press, the entire annual budget for the program for rural air services is around $200 million.
So here's where it stands now: Senate Democrats are blocking the House-passed FAA extension because it includes the cuts for rural air service; Senate Republicans are blocking the Senate Democrats' extension because it restores the cuts.
This stuff would actually be funny if it weren't costing us badly needed tax revenues and delaying badly needed airport improvements. As baseball's Casey Stengel once said in a different contest: "Can't anybody here play this game?"
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