Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Ontario International Airport and the federal budget

(2/27/13) – IE Transit Talking Points Short

Automatic federal spending cuts may occur within a few days, an event known as the sequester. According to Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, the cuts would cost Ontario International Airport and 60 other smaller airports its overnight Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controllers. That would mean no overnight flights despite the fact that the FAA allows airlines to land at airports that don’t have active control towers. Even though few passenger flights use ONT overnight, cargo carrier UPS relies on overnight flights for its Next Day Air service. The Ontario Airport and several logistic employers would be severely affected if UPS diverted its cargo planes to LAX; therefore, the situation is serious.

The Obama administration has no plans to cut federal spending without increasing taxes, a notion objected by several members of Congress. This has led to the impasse which may cause the automatic cuts to take place March 1st. Despite what many federal officials claim, Washington spending needs to be controlled better. The federal debt is nearing $17 trillion and spending increased 75% over the last decade, yet the economy remains lackluster.

The FAA is the backbone of regulating the aviation market and maintaining safety standards in the air. Its cornerstone is the Air Commerce Act of 1926, passed through the urging of the aviation industry. Certainly, any public entity like the FAA can streamline operations to eliminate waste, but maintaining staffed control towers 24-7 at ONT is productive for the logistics and airline sectors and should be maintained, even if the controllers are contracted. At the same time, government agencies need to police their budgets better so that taxpayers are not funding wasteful spending. Remember when former Metrolink CEO John Fenton was able to slash $3-4 million off the railroad’s budget simply by forbidding trains to sit idle between routes? The feds too need to get serious about government spending.

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