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FAA dispute centers on rural subsidies, union fight

A China Airlines plane in at Beijing's airport

Bob Moon: It's not all deal-making on Capitol Hill today. Funding for the Federal Aviation Administration could be in a holding pattern for a month or more. Congress may actually got on vacation without passing a budget extension for the FAA. That means no work for 4,000 agency employees and 70,000 construction workers.

Joining me live to explain the impasse, is Marketplace's Gregory Warner. So, what's going on with this Gregory?

Gregory Warner: So, Bob, when you buy an airline ticket online, you click through the screens, then at the last page that ticket price jumps up with those taxes and fees, right? Many of those taxes pay for the FAA operating budget and airport repair. Now 10 days ago, Congress failed to extend the FAA budget, so the agency stopped getting those taxes -- about $200 million per week. They put those projects on hold. Just to give you a sense of what this looks like on the ground I called aviation analyst Bob Mann.

BOB MANN: Well, it's everything from safety projects being deferred, control towers being built, or in the case of LaGuardia Airport, old control towers not being demolished, so that the sight lines from the brand new terminal can be improved.

Moon: So what's the issue here? Why can't Congress agree on this?

Warner: Some will say that this is a fight over tax payer subsidies to remote airports, but that's a much smaller issue. The bigger issue here is a union fight. The Obama administration passed rules that make it easier for airline unions to organize. Airlines and companies like FedEx don't like that, so they and Republicans are pushing back. Now, of course, people will blame a dysfunctional Congress and all, but nobody has much incentive to come to an agreement. I don't know if you've bought an airline ticket in the last 10 days but the ticket may not be cheaper. Many airlines, not all, are keeping the money that used to go to taxes. So airlines love this. They should make an extra billion this month.

Moon: Yeah, I actually bought my ticket before this. They say for a refund you've gotta contact the IRS for your refund. Marketplace's Gregory Warner. Thanks.

Warner: It's gonna take a while, thanks.

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