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Kansas House budget eliminates airfare subsidy for 2015; lawmakers say they plan to restore it

  • Eagle Topeka bureau
  • Published Tuesday, March 26, 2013, at 5:45 p.m.

— A state subsidy that helps keep airfares down at Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport would disappear in 2015 under an initial budget recommendation from the House.

But lawmakers say the money will probably be swiftly restored as budget negotiations continue.

The state has traditionally provided $5 million to help low-cost air carriers flying out of Wichita, and local governments also pitch in. Most of the subsidy has gone to AirTran. But Southwest Airlines bought the company last year and announced a new set of daily flights.

Southwest officials have said they would use the subsidy initially but hope to grow to the point of not needing it.

With that in mind, Rep. Marc Rhoades, R-Newton, and his fellow House GOP budget leaders proposed providing $5 million next year, then deleting funding in 2015.

But Rhoades said he plans to agree with the Senate to keep the money in through 2015 while keeping options open for next year’s legislative session.

“They want to know it’s there if they need it,” he said. “We can come back next year and adjust that if we need to.”

Lawmakers are considering a broad range of budget cuts that are driven by income tax cuts approved last year. Negotiations over the House and Senate spending plans are expected to continue for at least a few more days.

Sen. Ty Masterson, a Republican from Andover leading budget negotiations for the Senate, said he plans to stand pat on the Senate’s spending plan, which maintains the $5 million for the Affordable Airfares program in 2014 and 2015.

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