With a recently proposed budget cut under negotiation, the future of New Haven air travel may take a turn for the worse.
Tweed New Haven Regional Airport, the city’s small airport that offers four daily flights to Philadelphia, runs the risk of losing $300,000 in state funding as state legislators continue to make significant budget cuts. The airport operates under a $3 million budget, currently receiving $1.5 million from the state and $350,000 from the city of New Haven.
“We felt that [$300,000] was an amount that [Tweed] could absorb with alternative revenues,” said Benjamin Barnes, secretary of the Office of Policy and Management. “Given the constraints that we face on the state budget, I think it’s appropriate to ratchet the level of support.”
The $300,000 loss in state allocations comes as the result of Gov. Dannel Malloy’s overall proposed spending cut of $1.8 billion over the next two years. To accommodate Malloy’s proposed budget cuts, Barnes suggested a 20 percent reduction in the airport’s state subsidy.
“I’m sure [the airport] generates economic activity, and we are continuing to support it,” Barnes said. “We’re still giving them $1.2 million.”
But Timothy Larson, executive director of the Tweed New Haven Airport Authority, said $1.2 million is not enough. According to Larson, the $300,000 reduction would have a significant impact on airport operations, resulting in a “drastic reduction” in Tweed’s services, such as the airport’s fire and rescue services, security, maintenance and passenger delivery services.
“We need those dollars to provide safe operation for the airport, and we are not going to sacrifice safety,” Larson added.
Tweed New Haven Regional Airport accommodates about 40,000 passengers a year, Larson said, many of whom are students, hospital patients and tourists visiting the University.
“The airport is a necessity and an economic driver for the region,” Larson said. “Tweed is an asset that provides a tremendous economic incentive, and the state should support this asset.”
But Barnes said the airport is “probably not that important,” claiming that in his experience living in New Haven, most Elm City residents do not use airports or fly out of John F. Kennedy International Airport instead of Tweed.
Other state budget items also face proposed reductions, Barnes said, including a $150 million cut in Medicaid and a $450 million cut in hospital funding.
The airport’s Board of Directors will speak to the Appropriations Committee, a council operating under the Connecticut General Assembly, to argue in favor of the current $1.5 million state allocation.
The state Appropriations Committee will submit its final decisions in late April.