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Watertown, Pierre Will Lose Airline Subsidy Under Trump Budget

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.


  1. Rorschach 2017-03-17 09:48

    We do like our ideology, but only when it is applied elsewhere.

    Laurie Gill, Republican Mayor of Pierre

  2. Caroline 2017-03-17 12:37

    Shouldn’t we be optimistic and trust that Mike Rounds will step in and save the day for his friends in Pierre?
    The new Pierre airport is OMG beautiful; it would be such a shame not to use it.

  3. El Rayo X 2017-03-17 16:18

    JC Penny’s announced today they were closing their store in Pierre and three other South Dakota locations. As of June 19th, there won’t be a place in Pierre to buy a man’s suit. Should the federal government step in to subsidize a men’s clothing store in Pierre too?

  4. Caroline 2017-03-17 16:39

    El Rayo X: Great idea to have a federally subsidized men’s clothing store in Pierre! It could be in the airport building. Between federal money sent to Pierre and federal dollars misappropriated through scandals such as EB5 and Gear Up, I think the Feds have probably paid for a lot of suits in Pierre anyway.
    Brilliant idea Mr. El Rayo

  5. Sam2 2017-03-18 10:43

    We all need to make sacrifices to get the federal debt down. If Watertown loses ESA it will not even be noticed. The majority of people fly out of Fargo or Sioux Falls since the service has a terrible history

    JC Penny is closing 140 stores and it was 5% of their business and will save 200 million the government should operate the same way. If it does not have a purpose needs to go.

    I live in Watertown and have not used that airport since this century.

    I will not miss JC Penny or EAS.

  6. Caroline 2017-03-19 13:53

    Many years ago our county was in a big budget crisis. One of the possible items to cut was our library. At a well attended public meeting, one “gentleman ” proclaimed, “Close the library, I ain’t never been there.”

  7. mike from iowa 2017-03-19 14:09

    Cutting taxes will not bring down debt-only increase it and it is loooooooong past time you right wingers learned basic economics.

    I remarkably restrained myself. Wasting 54 billion more on ships the Navy doesn’t want or planes the military doesn’t need is adding more debt that you can’t get rid of by cutting welfare for the poor. It exacerbates the problems, but wingnuts won’t care. They will trash the economy again, hand it off to Dems to fix and then lie their way back into power once the economy gets rolling again. Rinse and repeat.

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