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July 25. 2011 11:07PM

Nashua FAA office: 27 put on furlough

NASHUA — Mark Boyle will feel the pain more than most after Congress failed to extend the Federal Aviation Administration's operating authority.

Boyle, an FAA engineer for 25 years, was told not to show up at the FAA office in Nashua Monday. He was one of 27 employees at the facility furloughed when the bill failed because of political differences over cuts of subsidies to small airports. The agency has been without long-term authority since 2007, and has instead been granted repeated extensions.

“I feel like we're being used as pawns,” Boyle said. “It's so they can play their game a little bit. Well, it's not a game for us.”

House Republicans included the cuts in a bill that passed along mostly partisan lines last week, but Senate Democrats refused to accept the cuts.

“Democratic leadership in the Senate proved once again that rather than cut spending and tackle our debt and deficit, they were willing to allow the FAA to fall into chaos in order to protect massive subsidies that benefit just a handful of airports,” U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta, R-N.H., said in a statement.

A Senate bill that didn't include the cuts never made it to a vote. A total of 4,000 employees nationwide were furloughed.

“It is unfathomable that some members of Congress have blocked an extension of the authorization for the Federal Aviation Administration,” U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said in a statement, though she didn't specify if she supported the House bill.

“It's vital that the House and Senate overcome their differences and come to a resolution as fast as possible,” said Stephanie DuBois, communications director for U.S. Rep. Charles F. Bass, R-N.H.

The shutdown in FAA authority does not affect air traffic controllers, according to a statement by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, but dozens of construction projects will be halted, including about $4.7 million in projects at the Nashua facility, according to the FAA release.

The shutdown also means the FAA will stop collecting federal taxes on fares, though travelers won't see much difference in what they pay for tickets. Many airlines have already increased their fares, rather than pass the savings on to customers, according to numerous media reports.

Boyle and Mike MacDonald, the engineers' representative in the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, said the furlough is frustrating because the public isn't “feeling any pain,” so members of Congress aren't hearing about it.

“The politicians just don't seem to care,” said MacDonald, who was also furloughed.

“I have a mortgage and a son heading off to college,” Boyle said. “This is going to be a great impact for us personally.”


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