By Lisa Lambert
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Thousands of construction
workers will lose their jobs and $2.5 billion in airport
projects will come to a halt this weekend if Congress does not
quickly approve new federal aviation funding, the Obama
administration warned on Thursday.
Projects in all 50 states would be affected but California,
Florida, New York and Georgia stand to lose the most money if
lawmakers to do not sort out political differences in
legislation to temporarily pay for certain Federal Aviation
"If we are not able to fund these projects these people
that are working on these projects will have to leave the job
site on Saturday," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told
reporters in a conference call.
In addition, LaHood's agency said up to 4,000 FAA employees
would be furloughed if Congress does not act by Friday night
when current funding authorization expires.
Air traffic operations would not be affected by the budget
shortfall, but airlines would not be allowed to collect some
$200 million per week in ticket taxes, LaHood said.
At issue is a bill the House of Representatives approved on
Wednesday to extend federal spending for airports and airways
across the United States through Sept. 16.
The Senate has said it will not pass the bill, previously a
routine task, due to a proposal in the House plan that would
cut some subsidies to airlines that operate flights to
underserved, mainly rural areas.
The proposal would save taxpayers $12.5 million, according
to the Republican-led House Transportation Committee.
Democrats complain Republicans are playing politics with
the measure -- pushing service cuts in the home states of
Senate Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Finance Committee
Chairman Max Baucus of Montana.
Republicans, led by Transportation Committee Chairman John
Mica, are highly critical of air subsidies that exceed $1,000
per passenger in certain airports, including Ely, Nevada, and
Glendive, Montana. The House bill also targets service at
Alamogordo/Holloman AFB in New Mexico.
LaHood, a former member of Congress and one of the few
Republicans in President Barack Obama's Cabinet, said he is
confident that Congress can pass an extension without any side
proposals, like the service cuts.
California would lose $131.5 million, Florida $88 million,
Georgia $67.1 million, and New York $62.6 million, in any
partial shutdown of FAA operations, the Transportation
Construction on the O'Hare airport modernization project in
Chicago will continue, according to the FAA. But the agency
will not be able to fulfill a $9 million grant for a new
taxiway, delaying construction of the new path, unless the
funding measure clears.
(Reporting by Lisa Lambert)
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