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"Congress still awaiting budget with Amtrak, airport program cuts"


 
Sunday, April 30, 2017

Congress still awaiting budget with Amtrak, airport program cuts
By Doug Wilson
The Quincy (IL) Herald-Whig 


QUINCY -- Members of Congress say a federal budget is taking shape, and they 
don't anticipate big cuts to Amtrak and airports as proposed by President 
Donald Trump last month. 

U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Dunlap, and U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, R-Tarkio, Mo., said 
they want to reduce federal spending overall without hurting important 
transportation links. 

Trump released a $1.15 trillion spending plan March 16 that called for cutting 
U.S. Department of Transportation funding by $2.4 billion. Part of the cuts 
would have eliminated the $175 million in subsidies for commercial flights that 
serve rural airports through the Essential Air Service program. Trump also cut 
Amtrak funds to eliminate its long-distance routes. 

Graves, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, sees 
Trump's budget blueprint as a starting point. 

"I think we'll be able to pass (a budget) that cuts the deficit and strengthens 
our military while maintaining programs that are critical to our economy. But 
transportation infrastructure is one of those critical areas. A host of 
different transportation programs help keep rural, urban and suburban 
communities connected as efficiently as possible, and I'll make sure that's not 
overlooked during the budget process," Graves said. 

LaHood also said he support's efforts to cut federal spending, but is concerned 
about cuts to Amtrak and programs from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

"As the budget and appropriations process continues in Congress, I look forward 
to advocating for the needs of the 18th District, which include programs and 
policies that support our transportation, manufacturing and agriculture 
industries, among others," LaHood said. 

Other members of Congress said they have not seen a complete budget and don't 
want people to panic. 

U.S. Rep. Jason Smith, R-Salem, Mo., told Daily Journal at Park Hill that "the 
budget is never line-itemed" in a way that would spotlight a particular 
community's programs. Smith had supported the creation of an Amtrak stop at 
Arcadia Valley, Mo. He said it is too early to know what budget Congress will 
pass and how Amtrak or other agencies will deal with the passenger rail 
network. 

Airline executives also have been watching to see whether Trump succeeds in 
shutting down the Essential Air Service program, which he said could save $175 
million. 

The EAS subsidy was developed after airline deregulation in 1978. It was 
originally designed to sunset after 10 years, but has survived as a major 
support system for the entire airline industry. Small airlines that serve rural 
airports say there are not enough passengers to cover the costs of regular 
commuter flights. Large airlines support the program because they depend on the 
passengers shuttled to large airports by small airlines. 

U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Matt Blunt, R-Mo., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., 
all have expressed their support for the EAS program. 

Cape Air provides 36 round-trip flights between Quincy and St. Louis each week 
under an Essential Air Service contract that pays the regional airline a $2.532 
million subsidy. 

Quincy Mayor Kyle Moore said it's "absolutely vital" that the airport continue 
to have commercial air service that gives local businesses access to St. Louis 
and global markets.
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