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Air service funding to continue

April 01, 2002|BY Dick Fleming

Maryland lawmakers reached agreement Saturday on a plan to continue subsidizing regional air service in Western Maryland for at least one more year.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said Saturday night that although a $2 million allocation for the air service was stricken from the budget, an amendment was passed that guarantees money will be found elsewhere to continue the service.

"Although the budget item itself was deleted, it is assured that there will be an alternative funding source so the subsidy for the service will continue next year," Munson said.

The service, known as the Clipper Connection, carries passengers between Cumberland, Hagerstown and Baltimore-Washington International Airport for $59 round-trip. It began in December, but has been lightly used, leading some lawmakers to question whether continued funding is justified.

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"Some people are not convinced it's going to grow," Munson said. "I think when people discover this thing, they're going to fall in love with it."

A House-Senate conference committee on Saturday removed the subsidy from the general fund as part of its effort to balance the budget, Munson said.

After some debate, members of the committee agreed to an amendment that Munson said commits the state to finding the $2 million in Senate Bill 323, which he described as a financing bill.

Munson said the decision to commit money to continuing the air service subsidy is "excellent news."

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