Bloomberg: Wal-Mart Connection Means Taxpayers Pay More for Rogers Airport Tower

Bloomberg yesterday took a look at the Rogers Municipal Airport, home to Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s fleet of corporate jets, and finds the airport saving $100,000 per year in air traffic controller costs thanks to legislation supported by U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., and U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark.

The article says the legislation benefits the retailer because Wal-Mart "gets revenue from airport operations through its ownership of a company that sells fuel to pilots and provides other flight services." (That Wal-Mart fixed-base operation is called Beaver Lake Aviation, formed in 1986.)

Taxpayers were left responsible for a higher share of costs of operating the Rogers tower than called for by U.S. guidelines for low-traffic airports.

“In this time when we’re trying to reduce deficits and find smart ways to cut what we’re spending, here we are essentially giving a subsidy to a private corporation under the guise of air-traffic control,” said Erich Zimmermann, senior policy analyst at Washington-based Taxpayers for Common Sense.

At last check, traffic at the Rogers airport has was down year over year. In July, Arkansas Business reported 2011 boardings at Rogers of just 19, down 78 percent from the previous year. It ranks as the 11th busiest airport in the state.

In the Bloomberg article, Pryor and Womack defend the legislation, saying it isn't an earmark, that city officials asked for it and it helped the local economy. A Wal-Mart spokesman says the retailer didn't lobby at all for the measure and that it would continue to use the airport even if tower support was cut.

You can read Bloomberg's complete story here.