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Sequester 2013

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Local News

Airport towers will remain open

The Department of Transportation announcing Friday that all 149 air traffic control towers on the chopping block will now stay open for the remainder of the 2013 fiscal year. This includes the Lancaster Airport and Capital City Airport towers.


Alexandria, VA – J. Spencer Dickerson, Executive Director of the U.S. Contract Tower Association (USCTA), released the following statement in response to the decision today by the Department of Transportation (DOT) to continue operations through the fiscal year at 149 contract towers previously scheduled for closure on June 15:

“We are grateful that the leaders of DOT and the Federal Aviation Administration have moved to utilize the clear authority provided by the Congress to keep contract towers open and operational beyond June 15. The broad coalition of communities, airports, air traffic controllers, aviation system users, and Members of Congress that has emerged in recent months united in the fight to keep contract towers open is a testament to the important role these facilities play in enhancing the safety and efficiency of the nation’s aviation system. In particular, we appreciate the leadership of the dozens of senators and members of the U.S. House of Representatives who have worked diligently to ensure that these important air traffic facilities remain open now and well into the future. Their dedication and determination give us great hope for the long-term success of the Contract Tower Program.”

The USCTA is an affiliate organization of the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE).


U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced today that USDOT has determined that the recently enacted Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013 will allow the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to transfer sufficient funds to end employee furloughs and keep the 149 low activity contract towers originally slated for closure in June open for the remainder of fiscal year 2013. The FAA will also put $10 million towards reducing cuts and delays in core NextGen programs and will allocate approximately $11 million to partially restore the support of infrastructure in the national airspace system.

Local News

Future of airport towers still uncertain

The future of some air traffic control towers is still uncertain. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says because of newly passed legislation, federal budget cuts will not close down 149 air traffic control towers. The legislation allowed the Federal Aviation Administration to move money. Enough money to end all air traffic control furloughs and keep the towers open. But the part about the towers isn’t spelled out in the bill, and the FAA is still deciding what they will do.

The uncertainty concerns people like Amy St Pierre, an Air Traffic Control Manager at the Lancaster Airport. “Our job is to separate aircraft and be efficient and keep them safe when they fly at Lancaster,” said St Pierre. “We love to talk to airplanes and we never felt before that we had to justify why. We always been keeping planes safe and we haven’t had to say that that’s why we do what we do.”

Lancaster airport is the 4th busiest in the state, with 90,000 takeoffs and landings a year. “We see everything from military aircrafts, helicopters, jets, single engine aircrafts, and the pilots that fly those aircrafts range in professionalism from professional pilots to student pilots,” said St Pierre. “It is a safety factor. If things remain the way they are, when it comes to the complexity of the planes that fly in here and the operations, and if it remains that way, I think it will deter people from flying here,” she said. “They are all supposed to talk on Unicom Frequency. If it isn’t towered anymore these pilots are not required to be on that frequency, but you hope they are.”

Pilot Jim Hamill is also concerned about the possibility of the tower closing. “Little Cessnas may be going 70 to 80 miles per hour coming into the area, and you have 300 to 400 mile per hour jets they’re also coming in at the same time from all different directions,” he said. “You have crisscrossing runways. When you’re sitting at the end of runway three-one you’re not going to see the jet taking off on two-six.  The two runways intersect over there and you’re liable to meet at 300 feet in the air over the runway. There’s just too much potential for disaster. You take away that layer of safety there will be an accident and somebody is going to get hurt or killed.”

Another concern for them is student pilot programs at the airport. “A student pilot to learn to fly and to get their license they have to fly to a controlled field and do a minimum of three takeoffs and landings,” said St Pierre. “They’re just learning. They can sometimes get confused about where they are.  So we can find them and have an eye on them, and say you’re not there, you’re not east of the field you’re west of the field.” The closure could force student pilots do some of their practice at busier airports. “I would look at it more when you look at Philadelphia International Airport. They don’t entertain that type of flying. Harrisburg does some of that but they have a lot of other things going on.  They have a lot of commercial flights.”

“Your student pilots are often going to make mistakes. The controllers here are very friendly, very competent they’re going to catch those mistakes as they’re being made, and they’re going to correct them. You take away that and you’re going to have a real potential for disaster,” said Hamill.

Travelers could be experiencing longer waits at the airport this week because of furloughs on air traffic controllers by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The furloughs are part of Sequestration, the automatic budget cuts that went into effect last month to balance the federal budget.

The FAA said in a statement that travelers can expect to see “a wide range of delays that will change throughout the day depending on staffing and weather related issues.”

Harrisburg International Spokesperson Scott Miller said HIA hasn’t seen much of a delay. He also said it is hard to tell where delays are coming from,”The number one cause of delays is weather, the second is usually mechanical issues,” he said.

While most air traffic controllers will lose one day of work every other week, Miller says those at HIA will be adjusting shifts instead of employees. They are also not filling positions when people leave.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said FAA officials could find no other way to cut $637 million from the agency’s budget as required by the sequester. FAA officials have said they have no choice but to furlough all 47,000 agency employees, including nearly 15,000 controllers.

The FAA has said that planes will have to take off and land less frequently, so the remaining controllers on duty will not get overloaded.

If you are flying anytime soon you are asked to check on your flight for delays and cancellations, and arrive early in preparation.

For flight delay information through the Air Traffic Control System Command Center click here

HIA delays

BWI delays

Many of us have heard the term sequestration, or the deep cuts that started kicking in April first across the nation. These cuts are an effort by the Federal Government to cut down on their massive debt and spending.

Monday, some of those cuts went into effect.

This week 99,000 people receiving emergency unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania will get letters letting them know their checks will be reduced. This applies only to people receiving emergency unemployment benefits, or after 26 weeks. “Pennsylvania pays for everyone’s unemployment benefits up until 26 weeks.After 26 weeks the federal government stepped in and started making those payments,” said Secretary of Labor and Industry Julia Hearthway. “Whatever you were taking home again past that 26 weeks, so again if you are collecting 27th, 28th, 29th, 30th week, you’re going to get 10.7 percent less.”

The average emergency unemployment check is $350. People will be seeing on average $37 less a check, per week, or around $149 a month.

The changes are set to stay in place until September, and starts the week of April 7th.

“Next week the amount received will be less than this week. Right now the federal government tells us it will extend until September, we don’t know past that,” said Hearthway.

For more information click here

To calculate your benefits click here

Monday cuts to Medicare started, that could hurt medical providers. This means Medicare payments to hospitals, doctors and other health care providers will be reduced by 2%.   According to Dr. Harold Paz Dean and CEO with Penn State Hershey Medical Center this could have a huge impact. “Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center is deeply concerned about the impact that sequestration will have on programs that are vital to the health of those we serve, including medical research supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Medicare Parts A and B payments,” said Paz.

Cuts to funding to the National Institutes of health could hurt medical research and more. “For NIH, sequestration will result in a $1.5 billion cut to teaching and research hospitals like ours in the first year alone. For our Medical Center and College of Medicine it means a reduction of $4.85 million annually or $1.2 million just for the months of April, May and June,’ said Paz. He goes on to say, “Researchers who cannot get competitive funding in the U.S. may seek other opportunities abroad.”

Medicare cuts will add to the equation. “The 2 percent sequester of Medicare will cut provider payments by $10.7 billion, including more than $1.3 billion in cuts at teaching hospitals and medical schools that are members of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). These cuts could result in the loss of nearly 34,000 jobs at AAMC-member institutions like ours, including those workers directly employed by the health care sector, as well as other jobs supported by the purchases of health care organizations and their employees.” said Paz.

Paz said he doesn’t anticipate the loss of any jobs at Penn State Hershey Medical Center as they plan to look for other ways to cut spending.

Some branches of the military are suspending tuition assistance programs for college students, citing budget issues related to sequestration.

The Army, Marines and Air Force already have announced plans to cut back on the program, while others are still weighing what to do.

“I wouldn’t be in school without it,” said Andrew Goodwin, a student at Penn State Harrisburg. He said the main reason he enlisted in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard was help paying for college.

“That’s one of the main draws of the National Guard. They actively recruit college-aged kids,” said Goodwin. “And, that’s one of the big things they use. They use the student loan repayment program and the Tuition Assistance.”

In a memo explaining the cut (which can be viewed here), the Army said in fiscal year 2012, about 201,000 soldiers used the Tuition Assistance program. It provides a benefit of up to $4,500 per student per year. It cost the Army $373 million over the course of the fiscal year.

“This suspension is necessary given the significant budget execution challenges caused by the combined effects of a possible year-long continuing resolution and sequestration. The Army understands the impacts of this action and will re-evaluate should the budgetary situation improve,” the memo reads.

Students expecting to receive the benefit for the current semester still will get it, the Army said. However, no new requests for money are being accepted, including for next semester.

A petition protesting the cut is on the White House website and has garnered more than 100,000 signatures.

“We recognize that the impacts of the sequester go beyond whether or not people are going to be able to have tours of the White House,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney.

A group of U.S. senators are trying to get an amendment passed to a budget bill that would restore the program.

“The motivation for many of them, probably most of them, some 200,000 in the Army is that they can work a little bit harder and be able to get a college degree,” Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) told Fox News.

Andrew Goodwin is scheduled to graduate in May with a degree in information sciences and technology. He says he worries about the thousands of other students like him who are just starting out and won’t have access to the program that helped him get through school.

He said, “They could make cuts across the board anywhere else but education. But, I feel like if we don’t have education, we don’t have anything.”

As the midnight deadline approached Friday to avoid the across-the-board federal spending cuts known as sequestration, military leaders in Central Pennsylvania were formulating plans to help employees cope with the effects.

At the Letterkenny Army Depot, Franklin County’s biggest employer, commander Col. Victor S. Hagan Sr. told employees depot leaders would host a workshop in the next few weeks to help them manage a possible 20 percent cut in pay.

Should nothing change, employees will have to take one unpaid day off every week starting the week of April 22 and continuing through September.

“We now find ourselves in the midst of a perfect storm created by a continuing resolution that puts funding in the wrong places, a shortfall in funds for overseas contingency operations due to higher than anticipated costs in theater, and sequestration,” Hagan said in a news release.

Leaders of the Pennsylvania National Guard said most of the 1,700 employees statewide also would be impacted by furloughs.

Maj. Angela King-Sweigart said one of the main concerns is being ready for emergencies, including things like natural disasters and major weather events.

“One of the largest impacts on us with potential sequestration is on our maintenance community. If we receive cuts to that, it’s not possible for us to keep our vehicles and our aircraft running as they should,” said King-Sweigart.

The guard employs about 650 people at Fort Indiantown Gap, with an additional 400 at Harrisburg International Airport.

Pres. Obama Fiscal Cliff Presser(CNN) – Asked Friday by CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jessica Yellin why President Obama can’t simply lock congressional leaders in a room until they reach a deficit-reduction agreement, the president said he can’t “force Congress to do the right thing.”

“Jessica, I am not a dictator, I’m the president,” he said while speaking to reporters in the White House Press Briefing Room. “Ultimately, if Mitch McConnell or John Boehner say we need to go to catch a plane, I can’t have Secret Service block the doorway.”

“I know that this has been some of the conventional wisdom that’s been floating around Washington, and that somehow–even though most people agree that I’m being reasonable, that most people agree I’m presenting a fair deal–the fact that they don’t take it means that somehow I should do a Jedi mind-meld with these folks and convince them to do what’s right,” he added.

Obama went on to say that those leaders are elected and have their own responsibilities. For his part, the president said he the best he can do is “make the best possible case for why we need to do the right thing” and “speak to the American people about the consequences of the decisions that Congress is making or the lack of the decision-making by Congress.”

“But ultimately it’s a choice they make, and this idea that somehow there’s a secret formula or secret sauce to get speaker Boehner or Mitch McConnell to say ‘You know what Mr. President, you’re right’… I think if there was a secret way to do that, I would have tried it. I would have done it.”

(CNN) — “I genuinely believe there’s an opportunity for us to cooperate,” President Barack Obama said Friday of working with congressional Republicans on averting forced spending cuts and other deficit reduction steps, adding that “what doesn’t make sense is to replace this set of arbitrary cuts with an even worse set of arbitrary cuts.”

(CNN) — President Barack Obama blamed Congress for failing to prevent forced spending cuts that take effect Friday, saying the reductions will harm economic recovery.