Republicans Try to Curb Rural Air Service Subsidies

Republicans Try to Curb Rural Air Service Subsidies

Debate over a proposal to reduce a U.S. program that subsidizes rural air service is the latest battleground in Capitol Hill’s partisan warfare.

Supporters of the proposed provision say $12.5 million will be saved annually by limiting eligibility to the Essential Air Service program to airports greater than 90 miles from a medium-sized or major hub airport.

The provision is part of a bill to extend through Sept. 17 the Federal Aviation Administration authorization law, which expired in 2007. The bill is sponsored by Rep. John Mica, R-Fla, and supported by Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure and Ways and Means committees.

Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wis., called the EAS “the most indefensible of the subsidies. If we can’t put an end to these extravagant subsidies, then we will never be able to rein in spending where really hard decisions are necessary.”

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller Jr., D-W.V., called the EAS provision irresponsible.

“The Senate will not consider passing an FAA extension with policy riders that hurt small communities across the country,” Rockefeller said. “By sending over a bill that can’t pass the Senate, we risk shutting down our nation’s aviation system.”

-- Contact R.G. Edmonson at bedmonson@joc.com.