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Essential Air Service Fund Isn't Paid By Taxpayers: Brauer

SkyWest, Inc.

Another of the proposed cutbacks called for by President Trump is for what's called Essential Air Service at certain airports. That program was penciled in for elimination.

The Essential Air Service program was put into place to guarantee small communities that were served before airline deregulation maintain a minimal level of scheduled air service. The federal Department of Transportation is mandated to provide eligible communities with access to the national system.

Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport is one of those facilities. The money subsidizes two round trips a day to a large- or medium-hub airport.

Rhinelander Director Joe Brauer says this airport didn't get the subsidy until 2011 when Delta left the market. Brauer says the program is paid for by user fees, not tax dollars...

"....it's 100 percent user-fee funded. Foreign carriers that fly over the United States pay a fee to the U.S. Department of Transportation. The main funding comes from the Aviation Trust Fund. Which is money that goes in there from the ticket tax and other fee that the aviation world pays into this Trust Fund..."

Brauer asks what happens to the funding that was designated by Congress for aviation-type programs. Brauer says there are 173 airports under the Essential Air Service, including Puerto Rico.

Brauer noted rural America put the current political configuration into office...

"...the message out there is don't do this to rural America. We're the ones that voted you guys in and now you're going to be taking things away from us? It doesn't make sense as far as economically, it could really hurt small town, rural America...."

Delta Connection operated by SkyWest Airlines is serving Rhinelander with jet service via Minneapolis- St. Paul International Airport.

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