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Republican Admonishes Appropriations Committee For Wasting $200M Of Your Money

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We have all seen the wasteful spending being authorized in Washington DC, including roads to nowhere and massive subsidies doled out to green tech companies that can't even stay afloat for more than a few months.

Thankfully, there are a few Congressmen watching the purse strings, on the lookout for wasteful spending.

California Congressman Tom McClintock is one of those watchers keen to reduce Congressional waste. Today, he targeted money appropriated for the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Act.

essential air service coverage
Map of Counties with airports subsizized by Essential Air Service
Graphic: Protonk, Train2104 Wikimedia Commons

Service 24 Years Past Use-By Date

34 years ago, Congress set up a temporary ten year program for the "Essential Air Service," in the "Airline Deregulation Act of 1978," after commercial aviation was deregulated. The idea was to give rural communities a chance to adjust to the deregulated environment.

The House Appropriations Committee, currently made up of 29 Republicans and 21 Democrats, voted to extend this program yet again, even though it is an obvious waste of money and resources, that contributes more than its fair share of unnecessary air pollution.

The Transportation subcommittee currently has seven Republicans and four Democrats, and they should have been paying more attention to cutting waste.

In 2009, when Democrats controlled the House, they added $13million more to the appropriation, than had been allocated in 2008. In 2010, it went up to $150 million. For 2011, it was again pushed up, to $196 million.

Perhaps the committee missed seeing the 1988 use-by date.

Republicans Only A Little Better Than Democrats

This year, with Republican in charge, they said they wanted to rein in spending, but it was only a half-hearted attempt, a cut of $52 million, allocating $144 million.

The committee said:
"Essential Air Service is funded at $144 million, and the legislation includes reform language to rein in the program by limiting funds to communities that received service during fiscal year 2010, or qualified for the program within 90 days prior to October 1, 2011."

Many of the "Essential Air Service" flights fly empty, or almost empty. The program consumed almost $200 million last year.

In fact, the "Essential Air Service" lavishly subsidizes some of the least essential air services in the country, according to the California Republican.

McClintock says a reporter investigating wasted money took a flight from Ely Nevada and was the only passenger on the flight. Ely is only a three and a half hour drive from Salt Lake City International Airport.

An amendment to the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Act proposed by McClintock will stop a wasteful program. In support of his amendment, he said he was offering the amendment "to stop fleecing taxpayers for this expensive folly."

Citing "Economic Drivers" as a reason, proponents of the service voted to keep it going. Speaking of Economic Driving, McClintock says they are driving the economy over a cliff, much like the Greeks did to their economy.

McClintock Remarks On Essential Air Service

Here is the full text of McClintock's remarks to the House this evening:

Essential Air Service

House Chamber, Washington, D.C.

June 26, 2012

Mr. Chairman:

If the House is to live up to the promises the Republican majority made to the American people to bring spending under control, some tough choices are going to have to be made.

But this amendment isn't one of them. This is about the easiest choice the House could possibly make: to put an end to the so-called "Essential Air Service" that lavishly subsidizes some of the least essential air services in the country.

This program shells out nearly $200 million a year - including $114 million of direct taxpayer subsidies - to support empty and near-empty flights from selected airports in tiny communities - most of which are just a few hours' drive from major airports.

A reporter recently investigating this waste took one of these flights from Ely Nevada and was the only passenger on the flight. Our constituents paid $1.8 million for this air service that carried just 227 passengers during the entire year! Ely is a three and a half hour drive from Salt Lake City International Airport.

Thief River Falls, Minnesota is considered an Essential Air Service airport, despite the fact it is just an hour and nine minutes drive to Grand Forks International Airport in North Dakota. Hagerstown is just 75 miles from Baltimore, but subsidizing their flights is considered an "Essential Air Service."

It is true there are a few tiny communities in Alaska - like Kake's 700 hearty souls - that have no highway connections to hub airports, but they have plenty of alternatives. In the case of Kake, they enjoy year-round ferry service to Juneau. In addition, Alaska is well served by a thriving general aviation market and the ubiquitous bush pilot. Rural life has both great advantages and great disadvantages, and it is not the job of hardworking taxpayers who chose to live elsewhere to level out the differences.

Apologists for this wasteful spending tell us it is an important economic driver for these small towns - and I'm sure that's so - whenever you give away money, the folks you're giving it to are always better off. But the folks you're taking it from are always worse off to exactly the same extent. Indeed, it is economic drivers like this that have driven Greece's economy right off a cliff.

An airline so reckless with its funds as to manage its affairs in such a ludicrous way would quickly bankrupt itself. As we can plainly see, the same principle holds true for governments.

This was a temporary program set up when we deregulated commercial aviation. It was supposed to last a few years to give rural communities a chance to adjust. That was 34 years ago.

In 2010, in one of the most decisive Congressional elections in American history, voters entrusted the House to Republicans with a crystal clear mandate: STOP WASTING MONEY.

Last year, the House responded to this mandate by voting to eliminate EAS subsidies in the FAA re-authorization bill.

What is the response of the House appropriators? They do not eliminate funding. They do not reduce funding.

No, they increase funding by 11 percent in a single year, to a new historic high.

Our nation is borrowing 40-cents of every dollar it is spending; it has lost its triple-A credit rating; its taxpayers are exhausted; its treasury is empty; its children are staggering under a mountain of debt that will impoverish them for years to come - and yet the House Appropriations Committee, in defiance of last year's decision by the House to eliminate this program, has just voted a double-digit percentage increase for a program that flies near-empty planes around the country!

I think we can do better than that. I offer instead this amendment to stop fleecing taxpayers for this expensive folly.

I believe that House Republicans will prove themselves worthy of the trust the American people have given them in this perilous hour in our nation's history. I believe that House Republicans can summon the fortitude to save our country from financial wrack and ruin. And I offer this amendment to put that faith to a most modest test.

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