Aviation gains hard-fought tax victory in Pennsylvania

July 10, 2013

Years of determined advocacy for general aviation have been rewarded in Pennsylvania, where a bill to exempt the sale at retail or use of aircraft parts, services to aircraft, and aircraft components from a 6-percent sales tax has passed and been signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett.

The bill’s passage holds the prospect of major cost savings for aircraft owners, often at higher sums than people realize, and should boost Pennsylvania’s aviation business competitiveness in a region where neighboring states with exemptions already in place have been able to siphon off jobs and attract aviation investment dollars, said AOPA Director of State Government Affairs Mark Kimberling.

“This bill’s passage certainly marks a positive and long-awaited day for general aviation in Pennsylvania. This tax measure will finally level the business-competitiveness playing field and stem the ongoing exodus of aviation activity and jobs,” he said. “While it has been a challenging atmosphere in Harrisburg the last few years for trying to get this measure passed, we—along with the Aviation Council of Pennsylvania—remained determined to enact this tax exemption, knowing that it is vital to the long-term health of the historic and extensive general aviation network in the state.”

AOPA and its allies had pressed for the legislation for several years, and “really turned our efforts up last year,” winning House passage for the first time, he said.

When the Senate did not act on the bill in 2012, aviation advocates again worked to reintroduce and pass it in 2013. It eventually became part of an omnibus budget-related bill, ensuring that the provisions would be included when the House, Senate, and governor’s office negotiated fiscal issues in their budget conference.

Throughout the years-long process, AOPA, in tandem with the Aviation Council of Pennsylvania, has testified at numerous hearings, and met with legislative leaders and lawmakers and staff on many occasions. AOPA also recently dedicated resources to a simultaneous effort to oppose a 2-cents-per-gallon jet fuel excise-tax increase—including weekend trips to the Capitol in Harrisburg by Kimberling in late June and early July as the lawmaking session was concluding. Those efforts also proved successful when a last-minute amendment to increase the excise tax was halted during late budget negotiations.

The sales tax exemption measure will now take effect 90 days after signing by the governor, marking the latest pro-GA state legislation passed as part of AOPA’s  nationwide comprehensive advocacy effort in recent years. Pennsylvania, despite recent industry challenges, remains as one of the larger GA states in the nation, with more than 17,000 pilots and 131 public-use airports.

“Not only did we avert all the state tax increase proposals of recent years, but this marks our continuing momentum to turn the tide in legislatures and produce positive, proactive legislation that fosters, rather than hinders this important but frequently misunderstood industry,” 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.