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Controllers Assail Administration Decision to Cut Funds from AIR-21 Budget - (2/6/2001)

WASHINGTON - The National Air Traffic Controllers Association is joining with both the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and the Air Transport Association in criticizing federal budget-cutting plans which, according to AOPA, have serious and far-reaching implications for Federal Aviation Administration funding.

According to AOPA, the Office of Management and Budget has cut over $300 million from the $6.1 billion Congress directed - through the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR-21) - be spent on improving airports and modernizing the air traffic control system.

“AIR-21 is a bipartisan $40-billion effort to modernize air traffic control and address aviation issues at a time when everyone is talking about delay and infrastructure problems which have plagued the system,” NATCA President John S. Carr said. “We believe addressing this country’s air transportation system challenges should be among the most important priorities for the new administration. To cut a sizable portion of AIR-21 funds would be inconsistent with this priority and it would also circumvent the will of a bipartisan Congress on this matter.”

AIR-21 is a three-year bill which set out to increase aviation investment by $10 billion over current levels, with the bulk of the funding going to radar modernization and much-needed airport construction projects. The $40 billion in authorized funding for federal aviation programs over the three-year period is comprised of $33 billion from the Aviation Trust Fund and $6.7 billion appropriated from the General Fund. In addition, the landmark legislation authorized a five percent increase in funding for FAA operations. AOPA has learned that the OMB’s budget proposal only allows for a three percent increase.

“NATCA is deeply concerned because this legislation was important in earmarking money paid in ticket taxes for improving the safety and efficiency of the aviation system,” Carr said. “The FAA has turned the corner in its modernization efforts but the continued success of such critical tasks depends on meaningful funding.”

NATCA was pleased to learn of the Bush administration’s plans to speed construction of much-needed runways at major airports by expediting environmental impact reviews. However, in order to complement that effort, Carr stressed the importance of preserving AIR-21 to dramatically increase the investment in the system.

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