During a White House news conference last week, President Obama said Congress' temporary fix of the government-wide sequester cuts to end flight delays is symptomatic of the nation's deferral of infrastructure maintenance writ large that is undermining long-term economic growth.
Obama signed legislation giving the Federal Aviation Administration the flexibility to move money from the Airport Improvement Program, which provides airport authorities with grants for infrastructure repairs and improvements, to the personnel account so that it could end furloughs of air traffic controllers that were impacting commercial and general aviation.
"Essentially, what we've done is we've said, 'In order to avoid delays this summer, we're going to ensure delays for the next two or three decades,'" Obama said.
He continued to press Congress for a long-term, broad deficit reduction package that would replace the automatic cuts mandated by a law intended as an anvil that Republican and Democratic negotiators believed would force them to compromise.
Obama noted in a recent passenger satisfaction survey - reportedly the Skytrax World Airport Awards - not one U.S. airport ranked in the top 25.
According to the 2013 survey, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport was No. 30 in the world.
"What does that say about our long-term competitiveness and future? And so when folks say, well, there was some money in the FAA to deal with these furloughs - well, yeah, the money is this pool of funds that are supposed to try to upgrade our airports so we don't rank in the bottom of industrialized countries when it comes to our infrastructure.
"And that's what we're doing - we're using our seed corn short term. And the only reason we're doing it is because right now we've got folks who are unwilling to make some simple changes to our tax code, for example, to close loopholes that aren't adding to our competitiveness and aren't helping middle-class families," Obama said.
The president has previously made the case that the country is resting on the infrastructure investments of previous generations and proposed in the State of the Union address a $50 billion "fix-it-first" spending infusion to address deferred maintenance of existing infrastructure. - Eric Kulisch