Despite strong concern over the appropriateness of spending state money to partner with an airline, the Wyoming House of Representatives approved a bill that is intended to stabilize air service in the state. The plan is to set aside $15 million to partner with an air carrier for 10 years. Supporters say it should reduce current costs that the state pays airlines and should improve air service, which they say is critical for economic development.
Opponents are concerned that the state is setting aside $15 million to pay the air carrier if needed. Buffalo Representative Mike Madden was among those who say it’s wrong to use that amount of money when the state has a revenue shortfall.
“What’s being asked here is to please appropriate $15 million, but we are only going to spend $1.5 million this biennium,” Madden said. “What are you going to do with the other $13.5 million? ‘Well we’re going to keep that in an account, so that we can spend that for the next ten years.’ Well, that’s not the way we do business.”
Jackson Representative Mike Gierau said he has worked to acquire air service for years. He said the subsidy is critical.
“The ability for our airline partners to know that we are going to be with them for the long haul. Not just in the beginning when service starts, but in the long run…the tough years in years two and three that we’re going to still be there. The state of Wyoming will still be with these communities and we’re going to work and it will succeed,” Gierau said.
The bill passed and heads back to the Senate to see if it agrees with House changes in the bill.