Airport programs survive deficit battle

June 27, 2012

When a California budget bill appeared to target airport grant programs by transferring fuel-tax revenue away from aeronautics accounts, AOPA and other organizations took quick action to protect aviation’s interests.

John Pfeifer, AOPA’s Western Pacific regional manager, consulted with the California Division of Aeronautics about the possible effects of the amended Assembly Bill 1465, and then alerted other aviation organizations to the potential impact. Language in the bill and companion legislation in the Senate would have eliminated airport programs through provisions to transfer fuel excise-tax revenues from transportation accounts to the general fund—just one measure in a package aimed at coping with California’s $15.7 billion budget deficit.

Pfeifer presented legislative leaders and budget committee members in both chambers with a letter stating AOPA’s opposition to the revenue transfer in the bill, which amends the state revenue and taxation code. Organizations joining AOPA in opposing the revenue transfer included the Association of California Airports, the California Airports Council, the California Pilots Association, Monterey Regional Airport District, and the Southwest Chapter American Association of Airport Executives.

“The sole funding source for state aeronautics programs must be protected and dedicated to that purpose,” wrote Greg Pecoraro, AOPA vice president of airports and state advocacy, in his June 14 letter.

On June 15, the state Assembly waived its rules and passed the bill three days earlier than the scheduled vote, prompting Pfeifer to take general aviation’s case to Gov. Jerry Brown, whose signature is awaited on the bill by June 30.

After the aviation interests raised concerns, clarification of the final bill’s wording made clear that the aviation grant programs would remain intact, Pfeifer said.

“No excise-tax revenue to be transferred to general fund accounts originates from funds normally deposited in aeronautics accounts,” he said.

Through the prompt action to clarify the bill, “AOPA and other organizations put the legislature on record that the state’s aviation programs are vital to the economy of the state, and must not be tampered with,” said Mark Kimberling, AOPA director of state government affairs.

“AOPA is closely monitoring legislative affairs, and is ready to respond to any threat to aviation and airport programs,” he said.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz | Aviation Writer

Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.