Lawmakers debate getting into commercial air service business

CHEYENNE, Wy.(KGWN)- Lawmakers are suggesting the state invest in commercial air service, as funds in the current air enhancement program will be gone in the next year.

Senate File 40 asks the state to create a special task force that would look into creating a special commercial air service fund. Airports across Wyoming, specifically in rural cities, would then use those investments to attract larger air carriers to their locations. In return for the investment, the state would be responsible for local fares, marketing and keep any profits.

Sponsors of the bill say this investment is crucial in places like Sheridan, Cody and Rock Springs.

During the debate on the floor on Tuesday, Senator Hastert told his colleagues that this is a way to not only save the state money but also collect some proceeds and provide better quality air service.

However not everyone was on board Senators Scott and Anderson both expressed concerns. Scott said that he is worried about approving more subsidies when we have already depleting reserves. Anderson stated that the state shouldn’t get into the air service business.

Sponsor Senate Von Flatern agreed with his colleagues about the state getting involved in private business; however he said the fact is we won’t be able to attract large airlines like Delta or United to these rural airports like Sheridan and Rock Springs without a subsidy. He went on to say that if funding isn’t approved the state is telling them, “since they don’t have air service they can’t grow, that where ever they are, they are going to have to learn to live with that size, that community.”

After the back and forth on the floor, Senators did come to an agreement to pass the bill on to a second reading. However some Senators say they are looking to make changes to make a better plan moving forward.

The bill will need to pass 2 more votes before heading to the House for consideration this session.

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