WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Lawmakers across the country, including those from Alaska, are hopeful they can save the Essential Air Service.
“This program is called Essential Air Service for a reason," said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).
It would be harder for Murkowski and all her constituents to travel around Alaska if President Trump gets his way. The president’s proposed budget calls for the elimination of the Essential Air Service.
The program subsidizes commuter and certificated air carriers that service 175 communities across the country. Sixty of them are in Alaska alone.
Murkowski says the Alaskan delegation will fight for the program.
“We are one of the 50 states, and just because we’re a little more costly doesn’t mean, that we don’t deserve the same level of support when it comes to access to transportation or energy grid that those in the lower 48 have," said Murkowski.
Some say the Essential Air Service has grown too big. The program now costs taxpayers $175 million, and opponents don’t think it services enough people to justify the cost.
“There have been reports about planes flying form Hagerstown, MD to Baltimore, MD – a distance of about 75 miles – with literally one passenger," explained Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste.
Schatz calls the EAS is a “privilege” and believes those who use it should pay more.
He concedes there are some communities so remote that air travel is the only option. But, he says, there should be a standard put in place them.
“Maybe in this case, a better, more effective program for those airports that truly need some kind of subsidy should be provided, and even then, the state and local governments can step in and help as well," said Schatz.
The EAS has been on the chopping block before, but lawmakers have been able to afloat. They’re optimistic they will this time too.
For a list of the carriers that get EAS funding in Alaska, and the airports that could be impacted, click "related links."