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Air Traffic Controllers Brace For Budget Cuts

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(credit: CBS) Reg Chapman
Reg Chapman joined WCCO-TV in May of 2009. He came to WCCO fr...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Many Minnesotans are bracing for what will happen now that automatic cuts in federal spending are underway.

Lawmakers couldn’t come up with a compromised budget, and now $85 billion is being slashed from federal programs.

The military and The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will take some of the biggest hits. The FAA will have to slash $483 million, or five percent of its budget.

Air Traffic controllers have been told they will receive letters by Monday that will outline how the automatic cuts in federal spending will affect their jobs.

Sam Tomlin expects to be furloughed from his job along with the 32 people who work under him.

“I’m facing at least a ten-percent, possibly a 20-percent pay cut because I won’t get paid for the time I’m not working,” Tomlin said. “Each employee will have at least one day of furlough per-pay period, so that means every two weeks. When you’re talking 32 people to get that many days off, you’re going to lose more than one person per day.”

Tomlin says this will reduce working staff in the tower and radar rooms. What he doesn’t want to see is a reduction in safety.

“Safety is the air traffic controllers’ number-one mission; to ensure that we will institute ground delay programs to limit the number of airplanes that actually get airborne so we can maintain a safe system,” he said.

Passengers will experience delays on the tarmac and see longer lines at the gate. People who rely on airports in smaller towns could also be affected.

“Smaller facilities that have under 10,000 commercial operations – they’ve been identified by the Federal Aviation Administration as potentially closing those facilities,” he said.

Airports in St. Cloud, Flying Cloud and Crystal could see hours of operation reduced or doors shuttered.

Tomlin says with more people concerned about their shrinking paychecks, they’ll spend less money – which will impact the economy.

He hopes that before the FAA can implement the furloughs, lawmakers in Washington will strike a deal that allows the government to keep moving without cuts.

According to the White House, education programs will lose funding and some teachers and aides could lose their jobs, and thousands of kids won’t get vaccinated.

The Obama Administration says 16,000 Minnesotans could lose their jobs, but not all economists agree with that figure.

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