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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
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
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
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
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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