Planes to nowhere? Congress plans to increase small-town airline subsidies

The Essential Air Service spends as much as thousands per passenger in remote areas. Critics say the program is wasteful and was to be phased out after a period of adjustment to ’70s deregulation.

By Alexander C. Hart
September 19, 2009
Reporting from Washington

Ely is a Nevada mining town with a population of 4,000. Located about a four-hour drive north of Las Vegas, it is perhaps most famous as the birthplace of former First Lady Pat Nixon.

Ely also is a beneficiary of Essential Air Service, a federal program established in the 1970s after airline deregulation to prevent small communities from losing access to air travel. But opponents call the program wasteful spending, noting that much of the money provides service to areas with fewer than 30 passengers a day.

This week, the Senate passed a transportation bill that includes a $38-million funding increase for the program, which now stands to receive $175 million.

In 2008, according to Senate Appropriations Committee data, Great Lakes Airlines received a subsidy of about $1.8 million for the 414 passengers it flew to and from Ely — about $4,500 per person.

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More Fun with H.R. 1105 Earmarks

The big story of the day is S.160 (District Voting Rights) passing the Senate. In some ways though, the victory is bittersweet. Thanks to an amendment by Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), district residents face the irony of standing one step closer to being treated like all other Americans while simultaneously having a decision of their own government overturned by Congress. 

Ensign's amendment, the "Second Amendment Enforcement Act" effectively eliminates the district's gun registration laws. And some district residents are none too happy about it! (Warning, some language is rather colorful)

But in anticipation of the Senate taking up H.R. 1105 (the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009) on Monday, we're going to continue with our list of interesting earmarks, which we picked out from the commerce, justice and science section of the bill.

Earmarks after the jump.

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Wednesday: A Day in which Many Billions in Spending are Approved by the House


For anti-spending hawks, today must have been a difficult day. H.R. 1105 (the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009), with an attendant $410 billion in appropriations, cleared the House (245-178) and is on its way to the Senate.

The number seems staggering, but it is important to remember that H.R. 1105 is an omnibus spending bill. An omnibus bill is group of bills (in this case nine) all rolled up into one easy-to-vote on form. This particular omnibus bill exists because Democratic leaders decided to wait out a veto President Bush had threatened.

H.R. 1105 comes five months into the fiscal year, but now the Democrats are wasting no time. Debate was limited to one hour and amendments were forbidden.

You can get a good summary of what's in the bill from your favorite MSM source. If for some reason you don't have one, check out the links on the right — we promise they're all quite good.

But in lieu of looking of at overall funding levels, we here at ICT are going to poke around the parts of the bill no one else wants to take the time reading (not that we blame them — all-in-all, this bill and its supplements weigh in around 7000 pages!). 

So throughout this week, we are bringing you a list of our favorite earmarks. From brazen pork to bizarre provisions, the earmarks listed below are the most interesting ones we could find.

Check them out after the jump

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