Monday was the first full day of cost-saving furloughs for nearly 15,000 Federal Aviation Administration employees. While weather seemed to be a factor in many flight delays, Florida Governor Rick Scott isn't taking any chances.
This week, Scott published an open letter to President Barack Obama decrying the federal budget cuts that have led to fewer air traffic control workers on duty.
Dear Mr. President:
On your March 29th visit to Miami, you highlighted the importance of transportation services to jobs and our nation’s economy; yet, today the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will begin to furlough 10 percent of the nation’s air controllers because of sequestration.
These furloughs will have a devastating impact on Florida families by creating unnecessary delays that will impact Florida airports. According to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), with Florida airports accommodating more than 142 million passengers annually, we would experience a direct economic output reduction of $19 million annually, or $1.6 million per month. Florida communities will be disproportionately impacted by these furloughs as we are the only state in the nation with four large hub airports, including Orlando International, Tampa International, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International and Miami International. Moreover, these furloughs would create a ripple effect causing additional delays at other hub airports such as Jacksonville International, Southwest Florida International and Palm Beach International. These delays will cost time and resources, hinder domestic and international commerce, and undoubtedly have long term consequences for Florida’s tourism industry, which all impact Florida families.
Equally disturbing is that the $637 million in reductions that the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) claims requires furloughs, could be addressed with common sense budgeting. As the Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure pointed out, the FAA’s budget has increased by 100 percent in less than two decades, and the FAA has $2.7 billion in non-personnel spending that could be utilized to help mitigate impacts to critical personnel. Once again, this is another example of the federal government using a meat cleaver, when they should be using a scalpel to reduce government spending.
These impacts come while Florida’s economy is on the rebound:
- More than 320,000 private sector jobs were created over the past two years, and Florida’s unemployment rate is currently below the national average at 7.5 percent;
- VISIT FLORIDA anticipates 2012 was a record year for tourism spending with $71.8 billion spent by visitors – a 6.8 percent increase since 2011; and
- VISIT FLORIDA anticipates 2012 was a record year for tourism with 89.3 visitors traveling to Florida in 2012 – an increase of 2.3 percent over 2011.
The decisions by the FAA are a hindrance to our continued economic growth and job creation. We continue to ask you to address the impacts of sequestration on Florida families, and work with Congress to make common-sense budget decisions, as we do at the state level to protect critical resources while ensuring we live within our means.
I urge you to quickly take the steps necessary to avoid these furloughs and impacts on critical services. Florida families have done their job; it’s time our federal leaders do theirs.
cc: Secretary Ray LaHood
As of today, Scott has not received a reply from the president.
In addition to the furloughs, budget cuts are affecting air traffic control towers themselves. Earlier this month, the House and Senate introduced bills that would restore funding to the 149 federal air traffic control towers have recently closed or are slated to close soon, including 14 in Florida.
Last week at a press conference on an unrelated matter, Democratic U.S. Senator Bill Nelson had this to say about the budget cuts: "It's another example of the idiocy of sequester. When you have a meat cleaver approach to the budget without concern with where you ought to pick and choose or what ought to be cut, then you're going to have these kind of results."