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Letter: Use common sense about air traffic safety, don't close tower

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Note: The statements, views, and opinions contained in this letter to the editor are those of the author and are not endorsed by, nor do they necessarily reflect, the opinions of The Republic.

From: Rep. Luke Messer

Washington, D.C.

Received: April 26

For months, America has been mired in a debate about “sequestration.” As almost everyone knows by now, the sequester calls for $85 billion in federal spending cuts from our nation’s more than $3.6 trillion budget. $85 billion is unquestionably a lot of money, but it represents 2 percent of our total budget, or two pennies out of every dollar the federal government spends.

Last week, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) received a lot of publicity for its choice to implement sequestration cuts in a most high profile and painful way.

The anxiety started when the FAA began furloughing air traffic controllers across the country, claiming the choice was required in response to sequestration. This trouble followed an earlier announcement in March that the FAA would close 149 contract air traffic control towers, including the one operating at the Columbus Municipal Airport as part of its sequestration implementation plan.

Closing the contract air traffic control tower in Columbus is a very bad idea.

The airport plays an important role, not only to the local economy but to our national defense, providing around-the-clock access at no cost to the military. The airport’s economic impact benefiting Columbus is an estimated

$650 million.

It boggles the mind that the FAA would have to resort to furloughing employees or closing contract air traffic control towers to implement this sort of budget reduction.

Over the past 10 years, the FAA’s operating budget has increased by almost $3 billion, or about 30 percent, while the number of flights has dropped by 23 percent. Given these trends, the FAA should be able to live within the parameters of sequestration without jeopardizing public safety.

To remove any doubt, on April 26, the House of Representatives passed a bipartisan, common-sense law that provides the secretary of transportation with enhanced flexibility to prevent the closure of contract air traffic control towers and halt the furloughs of air traffic controllers.

The FAA should use this newly authorized flexibility to re-evaluate all of its spending priorities. Air traffic control towers and public safety personnel should be the last places targeted for further reductions, not the first.

My hope is the president will stop the political posturing and work with Congress to replace the indiscriminate manner of the cuts made under sequestration with a more targeted approach. There is no shortcut.

Washington can’t tax its way out of this fiscal mess. The federal government must live within its means.

I reject the premise that we can’t lower spending, even a little, without serious pain and suffering. That just doesn’t make sense when the government spends more than a trillion dollars it doesn’t have each year, running up a huge tab on our children and grandchildren. This debt is the real threat to our way of life.

I am willing to work with the president to make more intelligent spending cuts so we can begin reducing the deficit and paying down the debt.

I am not willing to ask taxpayers to give Washington more of their hard-earned money so it can be squandered while the government spends without restraint.

It is time to make decisions. It is time to set priorities.

It is time to control spending, sensibly.

Luke Messer represents Indiana’s 6th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He can be reached by phone at his offices in Washington, D.C. (202-225-3021), Richmond (765-962-3225) or Muncie (765-747-5586).

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