President Trump’s budget would end federal support for air service in rural communities, many of which voted for him in the election.
The spending blueprint, released Thursday, proposes entirely eliminating funding for the Essential Air Service (EAS) program, arguing that EAS flights “are not full and have high subsidy costs per passenger” and that “several EAS-eligible communities are relatively close to major airports.”
The 40-year old program, which costs taxpayers about $175 million per year, gives small towns and communities access to air service, providing better access to businesses in those areas. Some local officials have said they could not continue air service without federal subsidies.
Rural lawmakers in Congress have been pressing Trump to include funding tools that benefit rural regions — not just urban ones — in his separate $1 trillion infrastructure proposal, expected later this year.
Democratic staffers on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee sent documents to the panel highlighting the 173 communities that would lose federal EAS funding under Trump’s budget, including in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Wyoming.
In 86 of those communities, Trump received than 50 percent of the vote, according to an analysis conducted by The Associated Press.
Alaska, a deeply red state that backed Trump with 53 percent of the vote, is home to 61 EAS communities alone.
House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) said he doesn’t agree with everything in Trump’s budget. But he also pointed out that proposed cuts to EAS have been unsuccessful in the past.
“There are things there I don’t agree with. … Cutting EAS funding for rural airports,” said Shuster, who represents Altoona, which would be affected by the cuts. “It’s such a vital link for rural America.”