Wichita: Airfares are State Priority

Wichita area government and business leaders are pressing the state for $5 million a year to expand low-cost air service at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport.

Payments from the partnership will be voluntary and probably based on population, Lawing said. The partnership includes 32 county and city governments in Sedgwick, Butler, Harvey, Cowley, Sumner and Reno counties.

Wichita legislators already have been approached about state funding.

Rep. Brenda Landwehr, a Republican and vice chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, said she will look for how the plan benefits the state.

"If it comes in revenue neutral, there's no reason not to do it," she said. She also wants to see credible evidence that the lower fares will help businesses grow in the area.

Rep. Jim Ward, the assistant Democratic leader in the House, said he sees "a lot of good things happening" as a result of three years of AirTran subsidies.

"It's a regional airport. I do see a benefit to not only south-central Kansas but to western Kansas," he said.

He hopes the plan's supporters can show that the lower fares can eventually become self-sustaining.

"At some point in time, it has to carry itself," he said.

Mayans first floated the state airport subsidy when he was serving in the House. His proposal would have earmarked some of the economic development funds generated by the Kansas Lottery to subsidize fares at Mid-Continent.

As mayor, he doesn't really care where the state finds the money.

"We just wanted the governor to have the opportunity to lead on this if she wants to," he said.

Wichita Eagle

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