July 10, 2013
By Dan Namowitz
Maine has extended until 2033 an exemption from sales and use taxes for aircraft and parts that was passed two years ago, but contained an obscure provision for a “sunset” review in 2016.
Passage on June 28 of the AOPA-backed measure to extend the tax exemption through 2033—12 years longer than originally authorized—will remove uncertainty from aviation-related businesses as they plan for the future, and preserve the momentum created by the 2011 tax reform, said Mark Kimberling, AOPA director of state government affairs.
That legislation also did away with the onerous use taxes imposed even on aircraft that spent little time in the state, with the complete repeal of the sales tax, swiftly turning Maine around from a state considered unfriendly to aviation to one with a much more hospitable climate for aviation businesses and aircraft operators, he said.
AOPA and other industry members who worked to override the sunset provision and fend off a proposed amendment to limit the tax exemption extension to just eight years expressed satisfaction that their efforts prevailed during a session marked by contentious relations between Maine’s executive and legislative branches.
A further complication was Gov. Paul LePage’s stated intention not to sign any bills passed by the legislature while a dispute proceeded with its leaders over terms for paying millions of dollars owed by the state to hospitals in Medicaid-related cases.
Kimberling, along with AOPA Northeast Regional Manager Sean Collins, local aviation advocate Jon Block, and numerous local aviation business owners and employees, participated in two key public hearings and other meetings in the state Capitol. Their efforts overcame political reluctance to extend the exemptions at a time when lawmakers were striving to eliminate many targeted tax provisions—and the legislation turned out to be one of just a handful of bills to make it to the governor’s desk.
“Given the remarkable turnaround and growth of general aviation in Maine since the original tax bill enactment, thankfully we were able to make a strong case for an extension in a very challenging legislative environment," Kimberling said. “This proactive legislation was imperative, in our view, to rid businesses of the uncertainty of a looming sunset review as they consider investing millions of dollars in expansion and committing to long-term leases to accommodate the growth in aviation activity.”
“In addition to the increased business investment, economic activity, and state revenue that support the state system of airports, the most rewarding aspect of this legislative effort was meeting and talking to many of the aviation workers who have been able to find new full-time, high-wage employment, with some individuals actually being reunited with their families after having to seek work in other states for several years,” Kimberling said. “For all of these reasons, we felt it was vital, this session, to secure the continued remarkable turnaround and growth of the industry in Maine that began with the end of the crippling use-tax law two years ago.”
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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