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Capital Journal, Pierre, Oct. 9, 2014
On Essential Air Service: Let's really hold it to what's essential
Alaskans point out that if you were to split Alaska in half and make it into two new states, Texas would no longer be the second-largest state in the nation.
Alaska covers a sprawling area of 663,268 square miles, crisscrossed by relatively few roads — no wonder the federal government spends $14.7 million to subsidize air travel in that area where just getting to some destinations can be difficult. That's federal spending we can agree with, and it's the reason the federal government probably needs a program such as Essential Air Service.
But it's harder to understand why that same federal program spends even more — $17.5 million — to subsidize air travel in the more compact and densely populated state of Michigan. And what about densely populated Pennsylvania? Does the Essential Air Service program really have to subsidize air travel in Pennsylvania to the tune of $12.3 million — almost as much as it spends in Alaska?
The issue also touches close to home. As our special report on our front page and in our Dakota Life section today makes clear, air carriers providing service to points in South Dakota also receive $6.4 million to serve those locations. And Pierre, which had subsidized air service once, may soon have it again.
Here is where South Dakotans must be honest with themselves. Why would Congress make the taxpayers subsidize flights in and out of, say, Watertown? From Watertown it's a straight shot down I-29, 102 miles, 90 minutes, to the airport at the north end of Sioux Falls.
Or what about Huron — should the American taxpayer really be helping foot the bill for air travel in and out of Huron, one hour and 54 minutes from the airport in Sioux Falls?
Or Aberdeen, two hours and 59 minutes from the Sioux Falls airport?
And then we come to Pierre.
As one of the sources in our story today asks, Why is it worth taking money out of the taxpayers' pocket so that Pierre can have subsidized air service?
Fortunately there are some good answers to that question. It's the state capital. People from other states and federal agencies and private companies need to visit Pierre on official business, just as our state officials need to visit other states and Washington, D.C., on official business. That's probably part of the reason we have a brand new airport terminal.
On top of that, we have the longest commute of any of these cities to catch a flight from our state's main airport. It's a drive of three hours and eight minutes to get from Pierre to Sioux Falls (though it's worth noting that it's a shorter commute, a drive of two hours and 42 minutes, to get to the airport in Rapid City).
Are those compelling arguments to subsidize a carrier to serve Pierre under the Essential Air Service program? Without a doubt they are. We think this is exactly the situation for which the Essential Air Service program was created, and that Mayor Laurie Gill is right to pursue a subsidy with the federal Department of Transportation.
But let us also recognize that we cannot and should not subsidize air travel in all of these cities in other states or even here in South Dakota - that's a recipe for out-of-control federal spending. On Essential Air Service, let's demand that our lawmakers really and truly limit it to what's essential.
Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, Oct. 11, 2014
Printing notices not sexy, still important
October is full of important events.
Some of them you can't miss — everything turns pink to bring attention to the disease that will affect 1 in 8 women for Breast Cancer Awareness month.
Others you might realize only when you need it — such as helping neighbors rake their leaves this year for Make a Difference Day.
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