Minnesota raids aviation fund to balance state budget

May 22, 2008

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and state lawmakers cut a last-minute deal that would empty the state’s aeronautics fund to help fill a $1 billion budget gap, but AOPA is asking the governor to reverse the decision and find a solution that does not place such a heavy burden on aviation.

In a May 22 letter, AOPA urged the governor to seek money from other sources, adding that the taxes pilots pay when buying fuel and registering aircraft should be used to support the state’s aviation system, not subsidize the general fund.

“A Sunday afternoon decision in the closing hours of the legislative session to divert almost all of the money in that fund to meet the state’s other needs was both ill advised and ill considered. This decision came as a complete surprise to all but a handful of decision makers,” wrote AOPA President Phil Boyer. “It is essential that the state continue its commitment to a robust aviation system.”

AOPA sent the letter after the governor and lawmakers reached an agreement in the early hours of May 18 that would divert $15 million from the state aeronautics fund to the general fund, leaving Minnesota’s airports without money for development and repairs, or the matching funds needed to receive as much as $160 million in federal improvement grants. Lawmakers have borrowed from the aeronautics fund in the past, with the most recent interest-free loan having been repaid less than one year ago.

AOPA members in Minnesota are encouraged to contact the governor and express their concern that diverting aviation taxes is an unacceptable way to tackle the state’s budget problems.