Northern Minnesota air service may die by federal blade

Here’s a story that shows how things have changed in northern Minnesota politics. A federal budget debate in D.C. could end rural transportation subsidies which would cause the suspension commercial air service to the Iron Range, International Falls and Thief River Falls. The program to ensure air travel to rural areas was strongly advocated by former Rep. and House Transportation Chair Jim Oberstar (D-MN8). Now the work group considering the cuts is lead by his successor, Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN8), who represents the exact same district, which includes two of these airports.

The program’s merits aside, it’s interesting how Cravaack’s approach to governance is so philosophical. (We need to cut “x” amount of federal spending and once we have completed “x” amount of cuts, jobs will be created and everything will be OK). I’d find a lot more to like about cuts that seemed more strategic. For instance, Cravaack would consider deeply disrupting the vulnerable economies of these three airports on a budget purge, while the purchase of six fewer jets by the defense department would pay for the whole Essential Air Service program.

That’s not to say that this program isn’t above reform or even reductions, but any plan that cuts air service from a huge portion of the state shouldn’t be considered a good idea.

MinnPost’s Devin Henry has the story, which is worth reading.


  1. It’ll eventually sink in Aaron. We, Chip, you, me have two options.

    Continue past policies, spend beyond our means, go deeper & deeper in debt…third world Greece like..or..

    Stop business as usual, pork politics, a chicken in every pot, a high speed iPhone in every pocket, a Volt in every driveway, etc….and save this once great country.

    It’s no more complex than that…

  2. Is Chip trying to ensure that he has no chance of election next year? It sure seems that way, moving the family to New Hampshire, not coming out strongly against anything that would hurt transportation in his district, bad moves.

    Even if his reasoning were valid politically these are major faux pas, easily capitalized on next election.

  3. So you’re saying I have to give up chicken AND the internet? Wouldn’t want to run on that in November.

    Seriously, Greece’s debt as a percentage of GDP is vastly higher than ours. We have a lot more debauchery left available to us until we’re in their spot. That said, that’s no reason not to prevent it. Can we at least agree that the framework of the Gang of Six proposal might be a positive step?

  4. Agreed..the framework of the Gang of Six might be a positive step.

    Now the Gang of One needs to reveal page 2 and 3 of HIS plan. His shallow leadership is showing…again.

  5. I’m going to let the second part of your response go because I just want to enjoy agreeing with you for a little while.

  6. Aaron, I need a Google +1 button on your blog entries.

    Cutting off access to the area will hurt current businesses and the business development opportunities. Our country is still great (despite what the Tea Party thinks) and our region has potential to grow. Transportation is one enabler of that growth, quality education in relevant industry is another.

    Using weak, misguided analogies to handouts and personal purchases proves you’re fooling yourself, Ranger47.

  7. Why the bizarre assertion that buying six fewer jets is no big deal? When I was on active duty, in the latter stages of my career, I flew on airframes older than I was. Those airframes are still active.

  8. analogies, it’s reality..

    “Nonessential and out of touch, could government workers cope with losing their PDAs?”
    By Karen Tumulty

    You will know them by the classic symptoms of withdrawal: anxiety, irritability, twitching hands, maybe a phantom buzz they keep hearing even when it isn’t there.

    If a government shutdown comes to pass, tens of thousands of federal workers deemed “nonessential” will be forced to give up their BlackBerrys.

    How, precisely, the government would enforce that ban has not been worked out. A senior administration official said that one plan under consideration would require nonessential executive-branch workers to surrender their government-issued BlackBerrys and other electronic devices on the way out the door. However, a top aide at the Office of Management and Budget said that agency has no idea how many personal digital assistants, or PDAs, are even out there”.

    “Low Voltage Problems at Government Motors
    by Chriss W. Street

    The Obama Administration has threatened to veto the House of Representative’s “Cut, Cap and Balance” deficit reduction legislation; because it does not preserve what the President refers to as “investments that encourage economic growth”.

    A signature example of that Presidential encouragement has been prioritizing production of the Chevrolet Volt electric car in the government bankruptcy restructuring of General Motors. But after six months and a $700 million to build the cars; only 2,745 Volts have been sold at the $39,995 price tag and 508 unsold vehicles are languishing in dealer inventories. Deficit spending to finance losses of $255,009 per unit doesn’t sound like an investment that will encourage growth”.

    Yep..and the government (you and me) even subsidize chicken farming and build airports we don’t need…

  9. Oh..those airports we don’t need..

    Why is St. Cloud Airport Sitting Empty?
    Millions invested in airport with no flights
    Published : Monday, 24 Jan 2011, 8:22 AM CST

    ST. CLOUD, Minn. – Millions of tax dollars and fees have gone into building and expanding the St. Cloud Regional Airport. Studies once showed big things were ahead for air service from central Minnesota. So why is the big, brand new terminal empty? And what are city leaders doing about it?

    You can’t get any emptier than this airport. A counter without customers, a belt without baggage, a lot of seats without sitters — and it’s all brand new. Not even two years ago, the finishing touch was put on a $5 million expansion to the St. Cloud Regional Airport. Another half a million dollars in federal stimulus money bought a passenger boarding bridge, that well, right now goes nowhere.

    “Five million dollars?” said Brent Thompson, a St. Cloud resident. “I think that’s a little ridiculous just sitting out there empty.”

  10. The Saint Cloud airport is ridiculous because it’s only an hour drive to MSP airport. Not many people (or businesses) are going to pay an extra $150-200 per round trip ticket when they can drive an hour and not pay it. Rochester’s airport would probably be in the same boat if they didn’t have so much travel for the Mayo Clinic and IBM to a lesser extent.

  11. As a Delta employee, I am not sure how I feel about this situation. The ability to fly into and out of a city is a huge advantage. As an employee, I can fly for free. If I have to drive to DLH or MSP and pay for parking, this benefit becomes less valuable. I really doubt if this would be an issue if the 8th district was not so “tall”.

  12. I’m not convinced you read the story you reference Aaron. You seem to paint our Rep. Cravaack in as negative light as possible..not sure why. I thought you respected/liked this guy.

    “Delta can’t just pull out,” Cravaack said. “They have to find someone else.”

    Delta plans to bid for a new subsidy level for its routes into the Range Regional Airport.

    Great Lakes Airlines is considering bidding on routes to other northern airports, a fact a Delta spokeswoman confirmed to Twin Cities Business this week.

  13. @David – I don’t think that old or inferior aircraft should be flown beyond their useful life. What I am saying is that 40 percent of our budget is defense and meaningful budget cuts must include a drawdown of our foreign entanglements, both hot and cold.

    I can’t speak for St. Cloud. I don’t know the deal there. I think northern Minnesota is a more distinctly separate region from the cities and flights here are more necessary for specific kinds of business and commenrce, even if those flights aren’t profitable to run.

    That’s what the subsidy program is there, which Cravaack has always been cool to for budgetary reasons. Yes, he speaks in favor of flights to the airport, but we have to actually make those happen somehow. This is never something we had to argue about before. I like the guy personally, but my original point stands. This story illustrates what happens when you run strict conservativism on (some) gov’t programs when there are practical concerns on the ground. I think Cravaack is aware of the implications NOW but he wasn’t BEFORE and now we have this situation. Delta’s already cut one flight to Hibbing and if we get strung down to one or none there is trouble.

    R47, you’ve got a column posted there from some lady… which is nice and all, but I’m not getting into all that tonight.

  14. Aaron:

    1. Totally agree with the military analogy, but…
    2. The range should totally be served by shuttles or (even better) trains to Duluth. With a shuttle, you can leave the Range in the AM and add no more than an hour and a half to total travel — still be in Tokyo by nightfall, in other words. I say the same about St. Cloud.

    I read a waaay too long proposal for air taxi service in HIB to find that HIB produced 10K in enplanements a year (2007). That’s 27 people a day. Three shuttles to Duluth a day should do it.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.