Cheyenne’s Airline Subsidy is Folly of the Highest Order

Cheyenne’s Airline Subsidy is Folly of the Highest Order

By Bradley Harrington

Brad Harrington

“It is characteristic of the unlearned that they are forever proposing something which is old, and because it has recently come to their own attention, supposing it to be new.” — Calvin Coolidge, “Address at Holy Cross,” 1919 —

For anyone who’s never seen wasteful government spending at its finest, it would be difficult to find a better local example than this:

“The Cheyenne City Council voted 8-0 to put up to $600,000 toward a subsidy for a prospective new airline … The city’s spending will be combined with county, state, federal and private money to form a ‘minimum revenue guarantee’ designed to help an airline avoid losing too much money when it takes a chance on a new market.” (“Cheyenne City Council approves $600K to attract new airline,” WTE, May 30.)

Nor is our local Governing Body alone in its desire to hand out money that belongs to others, for they’ve got plenty of company:

“The county is expected to pledge up to the same amount in the coming weeks. The Cheyenne Airport Board has $200,000 in federal money and plans to apply for $580,000 more from the state. And CRAFT, a private advocacy group, has raised $85,000 so far, according to group president Wendy Volk.”

Of all that money, it’s only the last — the private donations — that have any moral merit whatsoever; the rest of it is just as much of a pile of loot as is the $600,000 the City wants to blow on this airline fiasco.

Nor do the financial states of any of those other “donors” offer much comfort:

■ In Laramie County, “intergovernmental transfers” (NOT counting sales, use or severance taxes, just federal grants and other governmental funds), totaled out at over $16 million for FY 2014 (the last year that ‘intergovernmental transfers’ were even listed as such in the budget).

■ Regarding our airport board, they’ve already admitted to spending money they don’t own — and, instead of being ashamed of it, they’re angling for more … While they can’t even collect the $325,000 the last knuckled-headed airline that tucked its tail up its tail and blew out of here, still owes them.

■ And the state? Wyoming’s income from the Feds clocks in at a whopping 35.2 percent of its total (FY2014) — and we’re STILL looking at budget deficits of over half a billion dollars for the next biennium.

■ And the Feds, the final backstop for all these “free” dollars? Shucks, folks, they’re over $127 trillion in the hole.

Nor, on our own small scale, is the City of Cheyenne doing any better. Keep in mind, as you ponder that $600,000 disappearing into the airport’s insatiable maw, that just before the Governing Body approved it, they wrestled with a budget (FY 2018-2019) that, in the words of Councilman Dicky Shanor, “is by far the heaviest lift I’ve ever had to see a Council do.” (“City Facebook video,” May 29.)

Indeed, noted Shanor, our budget’s gone up by “18 percent” this year, and we’re going to raid our reserves for “$5.5 million” just to pay for that.

And THIS, Dear Readers, is what passes for “fiscal responsibility” in our city/county/state/country today. To even consider, in the context of such financial foolishness, throwing another $600,000 down the same rathole we’ve all pitched millions and millions of dollars down already, is absolute folly of the highest order — and every one of you City Council people who voted for this insanity should be relieved of your duties on the basis of dereliction of duty.

But don’t stop there, for “the hits just keep on comin’”:

“Councilman Rocky Case, who sponsored the resolution, acknowledged some residents’ concerns about the spending, but said it was necessary to ensure the $18 million in public money going toward building a new terminal and related projects didn’t go to waste. ‘The consequences of not doing something in partnership with the state and the county and CRAFT are going to be an $18 million ‘airport to nowhere’ or warehouse,’ he said.”

So: We spent $18 million on a boondoggle of a terminal that was never supported by market demand in the first place — and, in order to KEEP that from being a waste, we’ve got to keep shoveling MORE money down the same hole? Are you serious?

As for the “consequences” of “partnering” with the all the rest of those government bureaucracies: Yes, we’re going to suffer “consequences” alright … When all those phony bottoms finally fall out. But it won’t be you City Council members who’ll be paying THAT price, now will it?

Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email:

NOTE: This column was originally published in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on June 3, 2018.

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