Up In The Air Over Political Spending

Recent news accounts from Boise and Mountain Home make us pause over the reasons public money is being spent for political reasons–all ultimately aimed at “helping business” by keeping airplanes flying.
Our friends at the Mountain Home News report local politicos are worried about yet another round of potential Base Realignment and Closures (BRAC). The Feds are deeply in debt and congress wants to cut down on wasteful spending–in “any congressional district except mine.”

The City of Mountain Home and Chamber of Commerce send a delegation to the Air Force at Langley Va. each year to lobby the generals to keep Mt. Home Air Force Base open. They note Mississippi recently budgeted $2 million for that state’s military lobbying effort. It’s scary to think the generals would make military decisions based on data from Elmore County and Mississippi politicos. Multiply that influence peddling by the number of other delegations from cities and states and it boggles the mind how much cash goes to airfare and hotels for politicos. Boise ponied up many thousands of dollars to lobby for the F-35 despite pretty fair opposition from residents. The efforts failed to sway the Department of Defense. The F-35 will not be based in Boise.

Speaking of airfare, how about BOI plans to offer up to $100,000 in landing fee concessions to airlines? The idea is to entice airlines to offer more flights to the Boise market and give business reason to locate in the city of trees.
Southwest airlines Boeing 737 aircraft on final approach to the Boise Airport, Idaho, USA.
The GUARDIAN growthophobe philosophy says, “We welcome all business as long as they pay their fair share of taxes (and landing fees) and living wages. If they can’t make it on their own, they should go to a location willing to make corporate welfare payments. Same logic holds true for airlines. If they can’t afford to serve BOI without subsidy, we probably don’t need them.

Meanwhile, with airlines pulling out or cutting flights and the number of passenger seats, they are building a new parking garage. Must make sense to someone. Fewer passengers, more parking spaces equals more business.

One good move at the airport is new hangars for Western Aircraft and Jackson Jet Center are being funded by the respective companies. While the tax exempt airport land is owned by the city, the structures will be taxed like any other property.” Both operations are expanding their business facilities and could increase their work forces. Nicely done apparently without government help.

Boise spent public money two years ago to influence a constitutional amendment vote which allows the airport to finance structures on the airport and then rent or lease the facilities. If financed using this method, city, county, ACHD, and schools all lose because government-owned property is tax exempt. The airport would collect lease payments to repay debt, but we all would suffer from the loss of tax revenues.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Dave, I am shocked!, simply SHOCKED to learn influence pedaling goes on in the land of the free and home of the brave.
    Add this to all the crony capitalism and next we will have some really corrupt things to add to the local Idaho stuff going on right here in River City.

  2. The salvation of Boise is to greatly improve the ski hill and turn the entire town into a jet-set playground.

    No not joking. There are huge numbers of people with lots of money, but not quite enough for SunValley or Vail etc. They need a place with fast easy access because they have executive jobs in NY, SF, LA, etc. Many newbies will use airlines if they are non-stops. Build a Tramway from downtown/airport up and over the hill. Build a useful road. Expand the resort way out to the north and put in snowmaking. Develop big home lots all the way up the hill.

    The ski place by Cascade was a flop because it’s a long day to get to it with no nearby infrastructure. SunValley type places are overpriced because of the very limited geography is filled up. Boise has everything, and for cheap. We just need to upscale and market it to see it grow.

  3. Diane Sower
    Jun 8, 2013, 7:06 am

    It’s ludicrous for those at Mountain Home Air Force Base to have to live in fear, when that’s the only air base of it’s size in Idaho. The rich congressmen with influential lobbyists wouldn’t dream of cutting back any of their states, such as Virginia, and many more, that have multiple air bases being used. So picking on Idaho seems a little out of our league, and we should be taking this up with Simpson and Crapo. After all, the good Idahoans elected them.

  4. note to zippo.. years ago Bogus went through a period when they went the direction of a destination resort. It didn’t work and nearly killed off family skiing due to pass pricing. Season passes declined to less than 4,00 and it too Mike Shirley and the Board to make the leap of faith to move to the Family Pass and the $199 pass. This move was an overwhelming success for skiers and the Ski Area. They sold around 27,000 passes that first year.

    Snow is undependable for the Christmas break time at Bogus and the reality is they are in competition for the discretionary recreational dollars in this valley. It is great place for family fund during the winter months along with giving kids a life long sport to learn and enjoy.

    The resort idea is in juxtaposition as a local family oriented ski area. The high speed lifts have really made lift lines manageable. Now all they need is a few good snow years.

  5. idahoguy101
    Jun 9, 2013, 3:36 pm

    MHAFB is one of the Air Force’s more useful Base. I doubt it’s going anywhere.

  6. I drive past the nearly empty airport parking lot on Victory and Orchard every day on the way in to work, and then pass the new parking construction at the airport, and it rankles. It really does.

    While I agree that businesses should be able to pay their own way, I book enough company travel to know that the reduced number of flights out of Boise results in an enormous cost increase to our business in employee time spent on connecting flights, and the cost of tickets is way up as well. I don’t actually mind hearing that the airport is trying to incentivize airlines to come in and provide more options.

  7. Waiving landing fees and other incentives will do little to increase the flights. It will take demand for services. I have watched Ore-Ida, Albertsons, Hp and other businesses all but disappear from Boise. This area may be growing but a lot of it is retirees moving into the area. We need Employers who will create demand before flights will increase.

    That empty parking lot at Victory says a lot about airport demand for services.

  8. Mountain Home is one of the Air Force’s LEAST useful bases and it should be closed down. Mtn Hm doesn’t even have an active flying mission – it’s a training base. Moreover, everyone who is stationed there hates it.

    I’m sure Guardian readers will agree we don’t need those kind of government dollars.

  9. idahoguy101
    Jun 30, 2013, 2:08 pm

    That’s interesting BK… What do those fifty F-15E strike fighters do out there? Are you saying that there it’s not an operation deployable Wing? That would come as a suprise to the Air Force.
    As for the role of training. It’s vital. The area from Mtn Home AFB going south through Arizona is a training area. This involves the training of six AFB’s. Gowen Field, Mtn Home, Hill, Nellis, Luke, and Davis-Mathen. As well as NAS Fallon and MCAS Yuma. Additionally US and international squadrons are sent to train over the western desert ranges.
    I have no knowledge of future Base closing may be. But I think that your knowledge of air power is scant.

  10. @BK, the USAF agrees to an extent. MTHome is a great place for noisy jets to train… but the wife of Joe fighter jock hates it and often lives in Meridian. Thus the recent push to expand Boise airport into a USAF fighter/bomber trainignbase. The USAF plan for noise is to give each of us a $100 worth of pink insulation in the attic and a set of ear plugs.

  11. BK: Something about training. If an airforce is really good and really prepared… nobody will mess with it, thus training is an ultra important mission. And like the man said; airforces from all over the world come here to train, and when they go home again they are very very good.

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