October 20, 2011
By Dan Namowitz
A Pennsylvania bill to exempt aircraft sales, parts, and labor from a 6-percent tax moved forward Oct. 19, when the House Committee on Finance voted 18-6 to recommend passage.
House Bill 1100, which applies to fixed-wing aircraft, was introduced by Rep. Peter J. Daley (D-Donora), who was joined in supporting the measure by about 60 cosponsors. The bill’s backers urged passage to boost the state’s economy, create quality job opportunities in the aviation industry, and maintain competitiveness with other northeastern states that had adopted tax reforms.
“This is about jobs—from pilots to computer technicians, attendants and skilled aviation mechanics to maintain aircraft, to making Pennsylvania a competitive place to start or relocate a company that relies on aircraft in our global marketplace,” Daley said in a statement issued after the committee vote.
“When a similar measure was passed for helicopters, a company in West Chester added 412 jobs,” he said.
No date has yet been set for action by the full House.
Supporters pressed home in recent testimony the point that Pennsylvania found itself at a competitive disadvantage following action by other northeastern states to create a friendlier business climate for aviation.
Connecticut and Massachusetts, both with far fewer airports than Pennsylvania, each “have significantly more aircraft mechanics currently working in the state, for good, livable wages,” said Mark Kimberling, AOPA director of state government affairs, who testified before the full committee just prior to the vote.
At an Oct. 12 field hearing on the bill at the Washington County Airport, AOPA Eastern Regional Representative Greg Winton discussed the effects a sales tax had on aviation enterprises, and how AOPA had worked with other states to remove those barriers to competition.
John Graham of the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics told the finance committee that only 5 percent of airframe and powerplant (A&P) mechanic students remain in Pennsylvania after graduation because of the scarcity of jobs.
Bradley Penrod, manager of Pittsburgh International Airport, said that even aircraft owned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are sent out of state for maintenance to save on repair costs.
To further stress the economic urgency of this measure, Kimberling cited the new planned Gulfstream facility in Massachusetts and recent comments from leading aviation financial analyst Heidi Wood, pointing to a strong rebound in the business aviation sector in 2012, in explaining that “in evaluating and voting on this bill, it is really a choice about whether Pennsylvania will lead or continue to follow other states in attracting new aviation investment and jobs to the Commonwealth—now and into the future.”
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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