FAA: Sequester could close air traffic control towers

$85B in cuts take effect Friday

By Amy Davis - Reporter/Consumer Expert

HOUSTON - Congress faces a Friday deadline to stop a series of automatic spending cuts, known in Washington as the sequester, that pose a threat to jobs, school funding and other services in Texas.

The White House released a list of potential cuts, detailing how each state will be impacted if the $85 billion sequester takes effect.

The Federal Aviation Administration followed suit and released a report listing the names of more than 100 air traffic control towers that will close if the FAA loses funding. The Sugar Land Regional Airport and Lone Star Executive Airport in Houston are among the towers on the list.

According to Sugar Land spokesman Doug Adolph, six air traffic controllers are paid with federal funding. Should those funds dry up, the city will have to make one of two decisions -- find another way to pay the employees or stop air traffic in and out of the Sugar Land Regional Airport.

"It's a significant impact to our economy," said Adolph. "We serve 100 Fortune 500 companies every year and that translates into fuel sales, hangar rentals and even aircraft sales."

U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-The Woodlands) said the effects of the cuts would not be as bad as they sound.

"They seem like they're large, but they're pretty modest," said Brady. "It is the equivalent of asking a 500-pound man to lose 10 pounds. Yes, they're going to complain about it, but it's just a step in the right direction."

Brady doesn't deny that the sequester would also result in the loss of almost $68 million in funding for primary and secondary education in Texas or that more than 9,700 fewer children in the state will receive vaccines. However, he says major programs will not be affected.

"It doesn't touch Social Security or Medicaid. Important programs like children's health insurance, food stamps, welfare, veteran's care, military pay ... none of that is touched by that," said Brady.

President Barack Obama wants Republicans to agree to eliminate tax loopholes for the wealthy to raise more tax revenue. But Republicans argue the resolution to the nation's debt problem isn't raising taxes on the wealthy. Instead, they say the government should spend less and learn to make do with what it's got. Meanwhile, citizens are caught in the middle of the debate.

"They do need to come to some sort of conclusion and work together," Houstonian Merritt Walker said.

"Surely they will posture and make a lot of noise, but they will finally make compromises and get it going," said Jeanne Doornbos.

Lawmakers have until Thursday to do that. If they don't, and the sequester takes effect, the FAA said the Sugar Land Regional Airport tower and the tower at the Lone Star Executive Airport in Houston would close in April.

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