WASHINGTON — The Senate already has handily nixed a proposal approved by the House on Friday to end a federal subsidy program for small airports, including Augusta’s and three others in Maine.

Still, Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd District, said he’s taking no chances.

The Maine Democrat Friday joined GOP Rep. Adrian Smith of Nebraska in co-authoring a bipartisan letter signed by 22 other lawmakers urging the preservation of the $200 million Essential Air Service program, which offers federal funding to airlines for providing service to small airports nationwide, including in Augusta, Presque Isle, Bar Harbor and Rockland.

The subsidy program was included in a broader bill overhauling federal aviation policies approved by House on Friday 223-196, with most Republicans voting in favor and most Democrats voting against the overall legislation. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, was among the vast majority of Democrats voting “no,” and Pingree also signed on to Michaud’s letter.

The Senate in February passed its own version of the aviation policies overhaul. During that debate, an amendment seeking to eliminate the airport subsidy program was overwhelmingly rejected by a 61-38 vote. Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine were among the senators who fought against ending the program.

Those who want to eliminate the subsidy program, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., say it is an example of federal spending the country can’t afford.

When she voted to keep the airport subsidies, Snowe said, “Ending this vital program would have a crippling effect on commerce and commuters and would turn back the clock on economic development in rural regions.”

In the Michaud-Smith letter, the lawmakers ask the lead House negotiators charging with reconciling the House and Senate versions of the aviation policies bill to agree with the Senate that the airport subsidies program is worth keeping even in a time of budget constraints.

Eliminating the subsidies program would mean “threatening the economic prosperity of some of our most vulnerable communities,” the Michaud-Smith letter stated.

Jonathan Riskind — 791-6280

[email protected]

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