Washington nixes proposed aircraft tax hike

April 12, 2010

After a bruising battle over a proposed aircraft excise tax increase, the Washington state legislature has approved a tax revenue bill—without the controversial tax increase.

Lawmakers had proposed a 0.5 percent annual excise tax on aircraft based in the state, an increase that would have created the highest registration rates in the nation for many types of aircraft. AOPA worked with the Washington Pilots Association, the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), and other aviation groups in the state to fight the tax from its introduction all the way through a special session called to hash out the details of tax proposals.

The Senate several times had previously approved a version of the bill that did not include the aircraft excise tax hike, but lawmakers in the House had re-inserted the proposal in their version of the bill. The House finally approved a conference committee report April 11 that does not include the increase. The Senate approved the report April 12 by a vote of 25 to 21 and sent it to the governor for her signature.

AOPA Vice President of Airports and State Advocacy Greg Pecoraro spent three days in Olympia speaking with lawmakers about the proposal, and he and other AOPA staff kept in constant direct contact with legislators by phone and e-mail, including key fiscal leaders and others. Pecoraro said AOPA members’ involvement in the issue explaining the impact of the new tax and the value of general aviation was a key part of the aviation community’s success in fighting the tax.

“Our members were great,” he said. “They reached out to their legislators with a series of compelling messages that played a big role in giving the Senate pause and keeping the tax out of the final package.” 

Opposition from aviation groups helped win over a strong bipartisan majority of the state Senate and prevent adoption of the tax package in the regular session. Debate continued until almost the end of the 30-day special session, and the governor's signature could close the book on the tax increase this year.