The state budget for fiscal 2003 contains exactly no funding for maintaining Iowa’s 103 small airports. Normally the state spends two and-a-half million a year on lighting, radio and navigation gear, runway construction and repair. Republican Chuck Gipp of Decorah, the chair of the House Transportation Budget Committee, says he has nothing against airport, pilots and planes. He says they’ve got a big budget problem and have to cut in some areas to meet the priorities of the state.Mike Salamone is secretary and treasurer of the Iowa Public Airport Association. He says the airport’s often the “engine” for economic development in a small, isolated town. Salamone says aviation’s been helping out other businesses for years.He says it brings in eight million a year in taxes and aviation user fees. One who agrees that cutting all aviation funding is “penny wise and pound foolish” is Governor Tom Vilsack.Vilsack says a town trying to attract manufacturing will find a CEO wants to know the condition of the airport. Vilsack says managers know flying is important for easy access to a town and shipping products and materials. Gipp, the republican who chairs the House Transportation Budget Committee, says airports will still be eligible for some funding from the infrastructure fund.
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