Thousands of workers at the Federal Aviation Administration and airport construction projects around the country will be able to return to work this week because of a short-term funding extension.
The extension to Sept. 16 leaves airports’ credit situation essentially unchanged. Few airports face a near-term threat, but longer-term problems are possible.
“Most, if not all, of our rated airports can handle three to four months with their internal resources,” said Standard & Poor’s analyst Kurt Krummenacker.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood also chimed in.
“I’m thrilled for our dedicated FAA employees who will be able to go back to work on Monday,” he said. “And I’m thrilled for the tens of thousands of hardworking workers who can go back to airport construction sites around the country.”
The stalemate between the Republican House and the Democratic Senate, which was mostly over rural airport subsidies, idled 4,000 FAA employees and 70,000 construction workers.
They now have a six-week reprieve, but the underlying issues are as divisive as before.
House Transportation Committee chairman Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., fired off a warning Friday morning.
“If the Senate refuses to negotiate on the few remaining issues, they can be assured that every tool at our disposal will be utilized to ensure a long-term bill is signed into law,” he said.
LaHood will use temporary waivers to maintain $16 million of subsidies to rural airports that were cut in the extension. Those same cuts will be at issue again in September negotiations.
So will another big dispute — rules for union representation votes at airlines.
The FAA lost up to $30 million a day in uncollected taxes, costing the Airports and Airways Trust Fund more than $300 million.
Airports Council International vice president Jane Calderwood had questions about grants from the aviation trust fund.
“A, is there any money left?” she said. “B, if there is, there isn’t time to get it out the door in the fiscal year? It’s not like they can walk back in the door and start doing all this stuff.”
Extending the FAA only until Sept. 16 leaves Congress just two weeks before the end of fiscal 2012.
That’s time enough for another extension but not for agreement on a long-term aviation bill.