Senator Coburn's Deficit Reduction Plan

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) released a deficit plan, Back in Black yesterday designed to cut $9 trillion from the federal budget over ten years and result in a balanced budget.  The full report can be found here.  Senator Coburn was originally part of the Senate’s “Gang of Six” deficit reduction group but left the group because he did not feel they were willing to go far enough to reduce the deficit.  Many of the proposals included in the plan have been offered on the Senate floor by the senator as amendments.

Department of Transportation: The plan’s proposal for the Department of Transportation can be found here.  According to the report the goal of the changes at DOT are as follows:

1)      To reduce trust fund commitments to bring them into line with expected revenues and prohibit any future congressional bailouts

2)      To eliminate any non-critical General fund spending within DOT

3)      To eliminate or reform unfunded mandates and non-transportation-related requirements that increase transportation project costs and timelines

Highlight of Proposed FAA Changes:

AIP:  Change the cost share for non-primary airports from five percent to 25 percent over three years (drop from 95% to 85% in FY12; 80% in FY13 and 75% in FY14):

  • Supports recommended $1 billion cut in AIP that was included in President Obama’s FY12 budget.  The report does not make any recommendations on a PFC increase even though the President’s proposal was based on the Simpson/Bowels commission recommendation which noted specifically that AIP could be lowered because airports could increase other fees to address the difference.
  • Amends AIP award criteria to ensure the most important national aviation projects are funded with federal funds.  It specifically calls for including criteria for AIP projects that require project applicants to set forth in their applications how their projects will address capacity, congestion, navigation and safety problems or facilitate NextGen development at airports, and recommends requiring the FAA to use these criteria to prioritize AIP grants. 

Essential Air Service:  Phases out EAS over five years (except in Alaska) beginning with the elimination of EAS airports within 100 miles of any non-EAS commercial airport or with less than 10 passengers a day immediately.  Senator Coburn offered an amendment to the Senate’s FAA Reauthorization bill to raise the distance from another airport from 70 miles to 100 but it failed.  A second Coburn amendment to raise the distance to 90 miles as adopted.   The report concludes that the savings from the elimination of the EAS program would be $1.677 billion over ten years.

Small Community Air Service Development Program (SCASD):  The proposal recommends eliminating SCASD citing a high failure rate.   The expected savings from this proposal are $76.7 million over ten years.

Department of Homeland Security:  The report’s review of the Department of Homeland Security can be found here. The section covering the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) begins with the following quote:

“But there are serious questions about how effective TSA is in keeping the American flying public safe.  Instead of focusing on intelligence to prevent a future terrorist attack, TSA seems to implement security standards in reaction to an attempted terrorist plot.  This has cost the American public a lot of money, but brings no assurance that we are any safer when we travel.”

Highlights of Proposed TSA Changes:

  • Eliminate the Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program
  • Eliminate funding for AIT machines until new technology is developed that is proven safe and does not infringe on privacy rights.
  •  Expand the Screening Partnership Program (SPP) to the top 35 airports as called for in Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica’s report on SPP that says Congress could save $1 billion over five years with such a move.

Please contact ACI-NA’s Government Affairs staff should you have any additional questions or concerns.