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Senator Lankford Introduces ‘Federal Fumble’ Proposal as an Amendment to the FAA Reauthorization Bill

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) introduced an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2016 (HR 636) that would eliminate the Department of Transportation Essential Air Service, a proposal included in Lankford’s ‘Federal Fumbles’ government waste report.

“With any bill the Senate addresses, we need to continue to push recommendations that reduce government waste and protect the taxpayer,” said Lankford. “This amendment focuses on cutting waste out of the Federal Aviation Administration and ensures they focus more on their true mission, to facilitate the safest air space system in the world.”

Last November, Lankford released a federal government waste report entitled, “Federal Fumbles: 100 ways the government dropped the ball,” which listed $105 billion in wasteful federal spending, and about $800 billion in negative regulatory impact to the economy. The football-themed report also offered policy solutions to each of the examples of government waste. The elimination of the Essential Air Service program was listed on page #64 of Lankford’s report.

In the report, Lankford said this about his desire to eliminate the Essential Air Service program, “It is simply unfair to expect families in 99 percent of cities to subsidize convenient travel options for passengers flying in and out of the seldom-used 144 Essential Air Service airports. Congress should recognize that this 37-year temporary program is no longer essential and should eliminate it.”

The program was created in the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 to temporarily subsidize commercial flights to small community airports. The program was intended to be a temporary program to assist these airports with the transition into the free market system. Nearly 40 years later the program is still subsidizing flights and the program has become a permanent mechanism for subsidizing airlines in very low traffic areas.

In FY2015 alone, the Department of Transportation spent $263 million on these subsidies and spending on the Essential Air Service program continues to steadily rise in order to subsidize flights that often have fewer than ten passengers per day and cost more than $500 per passenger. The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office found that low-cost flights at non-subsidized airports are often more convenient and cheaper than EAS flights. The Congressional Budget Office has recommended that Congress consider eliminating EAS in its budget options.