The folks at the EAA can call their decision to pay the Federal Aviation Administration for air traffic control services at this year's Airventure a "one time thing" all they want--but they have to know that they have opened the door to making this a "permanent thing". The PR people at EAA are spinning this as "paying a ransom"--however, the bean-counters in accounting are probably already creating a new line item in the annual budget for "ATC-Airventure".
There are few guarantees in government, but one of them is that if people are willing to pay for something on their own, politicians are more than happy to allow them to continue to pick up that cost. (EXCEPTIONS: Anything that might get them a large amount of votes; i.e.--free healthcare, babysitting, food, private school tuition, etc). Now that the EAA has shown a willingness to fork over 450-thousand dollars to pay for the Pink Shirts to come to town, what incentive is there for the FAA to find room in the budget for that service next year?
And let's give the bureaucrats at the FAA some dap for the way they are handling this situation. It would have been very easy for them to just eliminate two or three Assistant Regional Vice Presidents to save this same $450K--which no one was would ever notice--but they chose the far more public and painful budget cut--just as was ordered by the Obama Administration. And they shrewdly billed this out not as providing the actual controllers at Oshkosh during Airventure--but rather this money will be used to pay for the people REPLACING the people sent to Oshkosh. That makes it seem like not paying the fee would endanger fliers at dozens of other airports around the country! Well played, FAA!
EAA isn't the only local organization falling into this trap. Recently, the Brown County Board approved paying for additional prosecutors in their District Attorney's office. Assistant DA's salaries are covered by the state--but the Legislature wasn't adding more money for additional prosecutors anytime soon. Of course, Brown County supervisors included language in their resolution that the county would pick up the cost of the prosecutors "until the state picks up the cost". Well, you can bet your bottom property tax dollar that will never occur.
As for those attending Airventure in the future, I would advise you to budget for an "FAA Fee" or "Air Traffic Control Surcharge" that will be added on to their admission fees from now on. The precedent has now been established.