Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Subsidies And Business

When Democrats talk subsidies, i.e. the recent attempts to pass the State Children's Health Insurance Program, Republicans complain that the government shouldn't be involved in the health care business or that it would benefit people that can afford to insure themselves but when the subsidies are in the name of business, they become necessary all of a sudden, just ask John Thune. Thune's latest crusade involves re-instating Essential Air Service (EAS) funding for Brookings and 2 other cities that were determined to no longer qualify for the federal money.

The EAS program started after airline deregulation and was an attempt to keep smaller airports that were deemed too far from larger airports open in hopes of making these cities more attractive to business. Brookings qualified for the funding because it had been determined that they were over the minimum 210 miles from a major hub, in this case Minneapolis (213 miles on mapquest) though the DOT listed it as only 206 miles. So up until October 1st Brookings had been the recipient of $1 million in federal money that was in turn used to get and keep airlines flying in and out of Brookings Regional Airport.

If you consider the intent of the funding, making a city more attractive to business you would think that the EAS money would have been a big draw for Brookings and their major employers such as 3M, Daktronics, and South Dakota State. Unfortunately that wasn't the case as the airport averaged a paltry 3-4 passengers per day flying out with the majority of business travelers making the 50 mile hop to the south for more choices out of Sioux Falls. Those daily empty flights meant that the federal government was paying approximately $677 per passenger, not exactly a big bang for our buck.

After many years of this waste of tax dollars, the subsidies for Brookings and 2 other airports in similar situations were dropped in this year's budget and as of October 1st, commercial service ended. You would think that this would have been the end of the story but it is not. Senator Thune believes that Brookings needs that $1M returned so that the 3 people a day that fly out of there can still do so and now he is trying to get the funding renewed.
"Ensuring access to communities like Brookings strengthens the local economy, provides consumers with choices and makes the entire commercial airline network more valuable," Thune said in a statement announcing his bill to restore subsidized services to all three towns.
It is nice to know Senator Thune's priorities considering he is coming off his second straight no vote on SCHIP and appears to have no problem throwing away $1M a year for unneeded subsidies. God forbid we increase health coverage for kids funded without increasing taxes one cent as long as we can help businesses, who by the way didn't use it when it was available anyway, all on our dime.

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