Hey, Watertown! Read Trump’s budget:
Eliminates funding for the Essential Air Service (EAS) program, which was originally conceived of as a temporary program nearly 40 years ago to provide subsidized commercial air service to rural airports. EAS flights are not full and have high subsidy costs per passenger. Several EAS-eligible communities are relatively close to major airports, and communities that have EAS could be served by other existing modes of transportation. This proposal would result in a discretionary savings of $175 million from the 2017 annualized CR level [White House FY2018 Budget Blueprint, 2017.03.15, p. 35].
Watertown saw regular air service return last year thanks to federal subsidy under Essential Air Service. Watertown is technically three miles too close to Minneapolis to qualify for this subsidy, but the Obama Department of Transportation granted Watertown a waiver in November. Now the Trump Administration wants to kill that subsidy.
The Watertown press is too busy getting ready for the parade for Lake Area Tech to cover Trump’s desire to end their air service, but AP has gotten reaction from another South Dakota small town that benefits from this subsidy:
“We do appreciate running government as efficiently as possible, those are our values … (but) I would argue that this program is vital for rural America,” said Laurie Gill, the Republican mayor of Pierre, South Dakota.
…Without the subsidies, airlines would no longer service their communities, local officials said. In Pierre, that means people who live in the state capital would have to drive more than three hours to reach the nearest airport with scheduled flights, Gill said.
Hunting, one of the underpinnings of the local economy, might also suffer, she said. Hunters across the country are drawn to the state during pheasant season [Joan Lowy, “Trump Would End Subsidies for Rural Airline Service,” AP via Aberdeen American News, 2017.03.16].
Hughes County, including Pierre, voted for Trump 63.31% to 29.96%. Codington County, including Watertown, voted for Trump over Clinton 66.54% to 27.20%.
Related: Cutting EAS from the Department of Transportation budget saves $175 million. While the President has promised a massive investment in the nation’s transportation infrastructure, his budget cuts funding for the Department of Transportation 13%, by $2.4 billion.