Jim Anzaldi, of Mt. Sinai, an FAA worker, addresses the...

Jim Anzaldi, of Mt. Sinai, an FAA worker, addresses the press during a press conference at Long Island MacArthur Airport. Anzaldi, who has a young child, said he doesn't know what he's going to do after being furloughed. (Aug. 4, 2011) Credit: James Carbone

To cries of "Stop the war on workers," congressional representatives, Islip Town and airport officials and furloughed Federal Aviation Administration employees Thursday called on Congress to immediately pass legislation that would enable almost 90,000 people nationwide to return to work.

"Again we see the big corporations, the airlines, are making money, the construction worker makes nothing, and the American consumer pays the price," Rep. Steve Israel told a news conference at Long Island MacArthur Airport.

Some $1.3 million in infrastructure upgrade projects are on hold at the Ronkonkoma airport, involving about 130 nongovernment jobs, because of the failure to pass legislation that would completely fund the FAA.

The FAA capital-improvements program was shut down at 12:01 a.m. on July 23 furloughing almost 4,000 FAA employees and stopping work on hundreds airport maintenance and upgrade projects -- affecting an estimated 87,000 construction and other nongovernment jobs -- because there are no FAA employees to oversee them.

Jim Anzaldi, 32, of Mount Sinai, an engineer now on the ninth day of a furlough from the FAA facility in Ronkonkoma said he was dipping into savings to keep his family afloat. Anzaldi has two children younger than 5 years old and he and his wife expect their third child in the coming days.

"It's been tough," he said. "It's disheartening, and there's not much hope. We're hoping it's going to be resolved, but as the days go on . . . it's just tragic."

Until the FAA reauthorization is passed by Congress, no money can be collected for or taken from the nation's aviation trust fund, which pays the furloughed workers' wages and from which certain key airport improvements are funded. The trust is funded with taxes collected from each passenger.

So far the dispute has cost an estimated $30 million a day -- $210 million a week -- in lost tax collections for the fund from airlines. Southwest-AirTran, JetBlue, United, Delta, American, Continental and US Airways have all increased their airfares by the corresponding amount while not having to pay the tax. Spirit, Hawaiian, Alaska and Frontier have not.

Should the issue go unaddressed until after Congress, now in recess, returns in September, the lost money is estimated to be at more than $1.2 billion.

Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) called the situation "unconscionable." One of the key issues that has proved a stumbling block in Washington: $16 million in cuts to the essential air service agreement which subsidizes service to some of the nation's smallest airports in remote rural areas.

"We are essentially saying we can forgo $1.2 billion in revenue for the sake of an argument about $16 million," Bishop said, adding that the longer the dispute lasts, the more impact would be felt at airports around the country.

A de-icing project at Syracuse's airport and almost $13 million in needed runway improvements for the Greater Binghamton airport are among other projects currently affected in New York.

Both Israel (D-Dix Hills) and Bishop said they were ready to return to Washington immediately to push for a resolution.

"It can be done today," said Israel, explaining that the Speaker of the House can order that the House open while in recess.

"This needs to be addressed Aug. 5, not Sept. 6," Bishop said.

President Barack Obama has called on Congress to resolve the issue by the end of this week.

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