Airports have spent the past 6 months beefing up security. Now they need to beef up their budgets. And airports everywhere are scrambling to see who can get the biggest piece of the federal budget pie.
News on Six reporter Steve Berg visited Tulsa International Airport and says airports, like Tulsa, are still pretty secretive about their security measures. But it's no secret that what they're doing is very, very expensive. And they're hoping to get some help from their newest congressman. Rep John Sullivan, (R) Oklahoma: "They've got a monumental task." They would be the airport officials. And they gave new 1st District Congressman John Sullivan a tour of airport security, because they're going to need his help to pay for it all.
"We're a donor state with our other transportation dollars but we're even more of a donor state with our airports, and that has to change." Donor state means that right now, for every airline tax dollar that Oklahoma sends to Washington, Tulsa International only gets 11 cents back. They say other airports get back 100% of their money or more. "It doesn't seem fair, we need to get our fair share, get at least what we're paying into the system."
Brent Kitchen, Tulsa International Airport Director: "We have ongoing security costs, escalated costs, our revenues are down somewhat." That might be an understatement. Airport officials say their revenues were down $1.5-million this past year, because of lower travel. And they've spent an extra half-million dollars for security. For a total deficit of $2-million. They estimate they'll need $30-million for all of the federally mandated security improvements. Like a completely new baggage system. And a blast berm to protect against car bombs. "Building a blast berm, the baggage handling systems, all these issues are very important but they require a great deal of funds."
Sullivan says he'll be mustering all of Oklahoma's Senators and Representatives to make their case with the Transportation committee. "This airport serves four states, and 64 counties. This is a State of Oklahoma issue, itâ€™s not just a Tulsa issue, it's a state of Oklahoma issue and it must be addressed."
We asked how Oklahoma got to be a donor state, and Mr. Sullivan told us very matter-of-factly that he's not sure. But he says he is going to try to change it.