President Donald Trump's push to privatize the nation's air traffic controllers is being met with strong headwinds, including from the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, the largest business organization in Vermont.
"This is a bad idea," cautioned Tom Torti, the chamber's president. "When we look around the country, do we privatize police services? No. Do we privatize fire services? No."
The White House wants oversight of air traffic operations moved away from the federal government to a new, non-profit board.
The president said in a video posted to his social media accounts that doing so will boost efficiency, spark innovations in aviation, and speed technology upgrades that can reduce aircraft delays.
"America is the nation that pioneered air travel, and with these reforms, we can once again lead the way far into the future," President Trump said on June 6.
However, new turbulence for the president's proposal is coming from Vermont Congressman Peter Welch and from the Burlington International Airport.
"Rural America is on its heels," said Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont. "We have to get it back and have it be strong. Anything we do that makes it harder -- I think we’ve got to be careful."
Welch said at a news conference Tuesday that he worries the move could leave passengers picking up the tab through more expensive ticket fees.
Torti said if ticket prices rise, that could make Vermont a less attractive place to do business for companies that require significant travel.
Opponents have also expressed concerns that the proposed air traffic board wouldn’t necessarily have the interests of rural states like Vermont in mind, potentially worsening airline services.
Gene Richards, the aviation director of the Burlington International Airport, warned that the nation should not mess with air safety.
"I think when you start introducing money and savings into something that's supposed to provide safety to the flying public, you could present a fair amount of risk," Richards told reporters at the news conference.
Rep. Welch said this debate is unlikely to fall along party lines. He predicted that some Democrats may support the notion, while some Republicans may oppose it.