By Henry Ogrodzinski
February 17, 2011
Robert Poole’s assertion in his recent column (“Rethinking the FAA budget,” 2/7/11) that the General Fund contribution to the FAA should be lessened or eliminated is unfortunately way off base.
First, there is a long precedent of using General Fund contributions from the U.S. Treasury to help fund the Federal Aviation Administration because our nation’s system of airports is a national priority and a benefit for all Americans. In spite of Poole’s alarmist rhetoric, as recently as 2003, the General Fund contribution to help fund the FAA was at 25%. While it’s true that the Trust Fund expenditures increased beyond that level in 2010, undoubtedly due to the economic downturn, that contribution was at a much greater level decades ago.
Second, it is simply not true that FAA expenditures are increasing due to ‘ballooning” airport projects, and new “user fees” are not the answer for any of our nation’s budget woes. The airport grants program has remained consistently funded at $3.5 billion since 2008, and “user fees” proposals for general aviation have not gained traction in Congress due in great part to the overwhelming bureaucracy that it would take to institute them, and the massive, unnecessary tax and bureaucratic burdens that they would place on our nation’s small businesses and communities.
The truth is that our nation has always supported a robust General Fund contribution because our system of airports and heliports is a critically important national priority, supporting national defense, law enforcement, commerce, local businesses, disaster relief, medical care, and a host of other important services and resources that all Americans depend on. That is why programs like the Airport Improvement Program are so important – to ensure that our runways are safe and secure, improve safety at local airports, and support local economies.
General aviation relies extensively on many of the airports that receive AIP funding, supporting 1.2 million jobs and $150 billion in economic activity for the country annually. Without these airports, many businesses would be threatened and communities would lose access to a host of important resources and services. When you count the entire aviation system, it employs 11 million people and generates $1.2 trillion annually.
President Obama has rightly recognized infrastructure investment as a key element of any economic recovery plan. Every billion dollars invested in infrastructure not only makes our transportation system stronger, safer and more efficient, it generates up to 35,000 new jobs. We can and should make sure that we are controlling spending, but threatening our nation’s aviation infrastructure is not the way to do it. We must protect this lifeline and economic engine for thousands of our communities nationwide.
Henry Ogrodzinski is President and CEO of the National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO), and a founding member of the Alliance for Aviation Across America.