WASHINGTON – Today, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced that the omnibus spending bill that passed the Senate today will fully fund Oregon’s smaller airport control towers, ensuring that the air traffic control towers and airports in these communities will continue to operate. Because of spending cuts at the Federal Aviation Administration from the sequester, control towers at five of Oregon’s airports would have been shuttered. Senator Merkley fought for the inclusion of these funds during the Appropriations process.
“Shutting down air traffic control towers never made sense as a budget cutting strategy, and that’s why I fought to undo the dumb sequester cuts and put in place a budget that actually funds our economic priorities,” said Merkley. “This bill gives greater certainty to Oregon’s rural communities and makes smarter investments that will drive economic growth and jobs.”
The affected airports were in North Bend, Pendleton, Salem, Portland-Troutdale and Klamath Falls. These airports are economic drivers for the communities they serve, making possible jobs, industry growth, tourism, and national defense operations.
Closure of these towers would have reduced safety and led to job losses, not just at the airports affected but potentially to businesses that are impacted by the loss of commercial air services. Additionally, air traffic controllers perform a host of important functions, including separating aircraft, assisting with military and emergency response, and issuing safety and weather alerts.
The omnibus bill passed the House earlier in the week and will now head to the President’s desk for his signature.