Rural Alaska air travel subsidies survive cost cutting in Congress
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WASHINGTON — Subsidies for rural Alaska air travel survived the cost-cutting talk as Congress passed a four-year funding bill for the Federal Aviation Administration on Monday after years of dispute.

Alaska is part of a hotly contested federal subsidy program known as Essential Air Service. The advocacy group Citizens Against Government Waste called the subsidies “low hanging fruit, something all members of Congress should oppose.” Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain tried to kill the program entirely.

Modest cuts were made to the Lower 48 portion of the program but Alaska’s subsidies emerged unscathed in the FAA bill, which passed the House on Friday and the Senate on Monday evening. The president is expected to sign it into law.

More than $ 12.5 million in federal subsidies goes to encourage airlines to fly to 144 of the more remote communities in Alaska. That includes places like Elfin Cove, Gulkana and Minto, served by small air carriers, as well as towns like Cordova, Wrangell, Yakutat and Gustavus that have Alaska Airlines flights. Alaska’s congressional delegation has made the program a priority, saying it could be too expensive for airlines to service the areas if not for the subsidy.

Alaska Rep. Don Young, who is on the House transportation committee, said he was “especially proud” that Alaska saw no cuts in the…………… continues on

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Article Date: 07 Feb 2012 – 9:00 PST

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