A Waste of Money? No Problem, It’s Yours

Our friend Tom Steward, writing at Big Government, documents a stunning waste of money here in Minnesota:

St. Cloud Regional Airport (STC) touts lots of amenities on its website–a café, ATM, free wi-fi, free parking and a $5 million completely renovated terminal whose capacity went up dramatically from 30 to 200 travelers. There’s also a new $750,000 passenger boarding bridge secured with federal stimulus funds to keep travelers out of the elements while catching a flight. One asset, however, the newly renovated airport notably lacks–commercial flights and passengers. …
Currently, an average of about one charter flight a month with 130 or so passengers uses the eerily empty 9,000 square foot glass-fronted facility. Potential passengers checking the airport’s website are notified there’s “no commercial air service” available. Delta Connection flights between St. Cloud and Minneapolis were grounded at the end of 2009 due to weak customer demand. Both national rental car agencies pulled out of their airport offices months ago.
By then, it was too late. $3.125 million in federal aviation grants from user fees on fuel and tickets, $1.131 million in state airport funds, and $767,000 in local sales taxes were already spent on what’s in danger of becoming a terminal project in more ways than one.

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The remarkable thing is that, apparently, no stimulus money found its way to the St. Cloud airport. But the lack of need for the facility hasn’t stopped government officials from trying to pour more money into it:

Despite a shortage of commercial flights out of STC, there’s no shortage in requests for federal dollars. Senator Al Franken’s website lists a $500,000 earmark request for improved runway lighting for the St. Cloud Regional Airport, while Senator Amy Klobuchar’s website lists a $1,000,000 earmark request for the same project.

It is a common conceit among office-holders that finding money to cut from government budgets is difficult. My own view is that government wastes enormous amounts of money at every level. Many in public life–Franken and Klobuchar would appear to be examples–are so ignorant of economics that they do not understand that when money is spent and resources are consumed inefficiently, our country is made poorer.

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