Iowa Congressman Tom Latham says funding for the Essential Air Service program is safe, at least in the U-S House. An amendment in the Senate proposed by Arizona Republican John McCain would eliminate funding for the program, which would deal a huge blow to commercial air service at small airports across Iowa.

Latham, a Republican from Ames, says EAS funding is vital, as it helps to subsidize major airlines to serve places like Mason City, Burlington and Ottumwa.

He says the air service needs to continue as “it’s extremely important for economic development and continued job creation in the region.” Latham says a bill that will be considered by the House within days will include EAS funding.

Latham says the McCain amendment has a long ways to go through the Senate before it’s voted on, but he feels there’s a lot of support for continuing EAS funding, especially in rural areas.

Latham says an appropriations bill and a continuing resolution that will go through the House next week will include funding for EAS. Latham says Delta flights that currently serve Mason City and Fort Dodge from Minneapolis are important for those Iowa communities.

He says the ridership is high along that route and the EAS subsidy per ticket is small, but it is needed to make sure that businesses realize they have air access to those areas.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley said earlier this week he may vote for the Senate amendment proposed by McCain to kill the funding, as part of an effort to show Congress is serious and willing to make deep spending cuts.

Bob Fisher, KRIB, Mason City