Senate Commerce Committee Advances Moran Bill to Support Air Traffic Controllers: Sen. Moran’s bill would eliminate hiring barrier for eight contract towers in Kansas
Dec 11 2019
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) – member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation – today applauded the Senate Commerce Committee’s vote to advance the Continuity for Operators with Necessary Training Required for ATC Contract Towers (CONTRACT) Act of 2019.
“The CONTRACT Act removes an unnecessary barrier in the hiring pipeline for contract towers, including the eight located in Kansas, and allows highly-skilled, experienced controllers to continue their careers in the aviation industry,” said Sen. Moran. “I am pleased the Commerce Committee voted to advance the CONTRACT Act, and I urge the full Senate to quickly pass this sensible legislation.”
The bipartisan CONTRACT Act would remove the disincentive for retired FAA air traffic controllers to work at federal contract towers. Under current law, FAA air traffic controllers must retire by age 56. Because this is earlier than the normal retirement age, controllers are included as a "special group" under the Federal Employees' Retirement System (FERS) and contribute an additional 0.5 percent of their annual salary into a special retirement annuity account. In return, they receive a FERS annuity payment during the mandatory retirement period between 56 and the social security minimum age of 62. The retired controller's special annuity payment is incrementally reduced if they earn more than the social security earnings limit of $17,640 (2019 tax year) annually. This annuity offset penalty results in many retired FAA controllers making the decision not to work as federal contract tower air traffic controllers.
Items to note:
- Sens. Moran, Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) introduced the CONTRACT Act on November 20, 2019.
- There are 256 air traffic control facilities participating in the FAA’s Federal Contract Tower Program, including Garden City, Hutchinson, Manhattan, Salina and two locations in Olathe and Topeka.
- The U.S. Contract Tower Association (USCTA), the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) sent a letter of support for this legislation.
- In October 2018, a number of Sen. Moran-led provisions relating to contract towers were included in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018.
- Full text of the CONTRACT Act can be found here.
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