Five-million dollars a year. That could go to a lot of things in the state budget - like education, or roads. But it goes to keep airfares low -- and affordable -- at Wichita's Mid-Continent Airport.
On Wednesday, state auditors announced that subsidy doesn't have the benefit others say it has. Airline and economic experts, and city leaders, say the opposite -- that affordable airfares have a big, positive impact on Wichita and the state.
You pay to fly out of Wichita's Mid-Continent Airport. So does the state; it pays five million dollars a year to keep low-cost carriers here. The city says it really pays off. "Travelers saved $61 million last year alone," said Wichita Vice-Mayor Jeff Longwell.
But state auditors say it doesn't pay off as much. They estimate the $5 million spent brings in about $10 million. Others say it's closer to $20 million. Wichita State's Center for Economic Development and Business Research (CEDBR) conducted the original study. The study the state auditors examined.
"The study was actually the impact of Airtran on the Wichita area," explained CEDBR Director Jeremy Hill. "It was not the impact of Kansas Affordable Airfares on the State."
Hill says the state didn't see the whole picture - or all the benefits - by looking at the Airtran-only study. "To think that it only benefits Wichita is overly simplistic."
Airline and economic experts agree - this is still a good deal for Kansas. Whether its investing one dollar so you earn back two, or investing one dollar so you can earn back four -- you're still earning money.
"I think that's very easy to say that it will have a very negative impact on the entire region if we don't renew affordable airfares," said Vice-Mayor Longwell.
Longwell said cutting the subsidy could cut any chance wichita has of snagging Southwest Airlines. "We know if we don't renew affordable airfares, it puts us in a very precarious position to get Southwest," he said. "It doesn't guarantee us Southwest, but I think it could almost guarantee us that we won't get Southwest."
The city says it is important to keep the state's $5 million subsidy in, because it doesn't want Wichitans to pay to keep airlines everyone in the state uses.
The governor already accounted for the $5 million Affordable Airfares subsidy in his budget. But legislators will vote on whether or not to actually keep it in the state's budget.
FactFinder 12 Scientific Survey
1. In order to keep fares low at Wichita's Mid-Continent Airport, the state of Kansas gives low-fare airlines $5 million a year. Do you support? or oppose? Using tax dollars to subsidize low-fare airlines at Mid-Continent Airport?
Asked of 500 Adults
Margin of Sampling Error for this question = ± 4.4%
31% - Support
57% - Oppose
12% - Not Sure
2. Do you think lower air fares has a major impact when it comes to creating jobs and improving business in the state? A minor impact? Or no impact at all?
Asked of 500 Adults
Margin of Sampling Error for this question = ± 4.5%
36% - Major
49% - Minor
10% - No Impact