N.H. lawmakers mull dedicated aviation funds in next budget

February 18, 2010

Leaders in the New Hampshire legislature are looking into including dedicated aviation funding in the next biennial budget.

Currently, money raised from aviation in New Hampshire goes into the general coffers, where it may be used for a wide range of nonaviation-related expenses. A bill being considered in the House proposes to set that money aside for aviation purposes. After talking with House leaders, AOPA is working with other aviation organizations to set the stage for the bill’s passage next year with the new budget cycle.

The Granite State Airport Management Association spearheaded the effort to craft the bill, which would provide state funding to airports that are not eligible for federal funds. The association brought the proposal to Rep. Chris Nevins, who sponsored the legislation, and has been encouraging members of the New Hampshire aviation community to support the bill.

Nevins, an AOPA member and pilot, introduced H.B. 1506 to establish a state aeronautical fund. The proposal would bring the state more in line with most other states, which allocate money from aircraft registrations and other operating fees to a fund to benefit public-use airports. The House voted in favor of the bill Feb. 10 and sent it to the Finance Committee for consideration. AOPA Northeast Regional Representative Craig Dotlo and GSAMA’s Bruce Hutchings met with House leadership in advance of the vote to discuss the bill and its prospects in the state legislature.

“They understand that aviation is important to the state. They also understand that a lot of these airports don’t qualify for federal funding. But the state has a money crunch, and they said they can’t afford to make any further expenditures under the current budget plan,” Dotlo said.

New Hampshire is confronting budget shortfalls during the recession, so the bill would face an uphill battle in the midst of this two-year budget cycle. But the proposal could fare better for the budget starting July 1, 2011, especially if bolstered by the findings of an airport economic impact study some legislators have suggested.

Rep. Beverly Rodeschin made a motion for an interim study of the economic impact of state airports in a Finance Committee working session Feb. 16. Nevins and Rep. Kenneth Weyler, also a pilot, spoke in support of state airports before the working group. If approved, the study would have to be completed by Nov. 1 of this year for the issue to be taken up again next year.

With current data about the benefits of New Hampshire’s 11 public-use airports to businesses, job creation, and emergency services, the state could advance a step closer to dedicating its aviation money to aviation expenditures.