July 18, 2013
By Dan Namowitz
A contentious and lengthy 2013 legislative session in Oregon adjourned July 8 with no adverse implications for general aviation, but not before AOPA and other aviation advocates moved to oppose a bill that would have put the onus of a fuel-tax increase squarely on avgas users.
Another positive result for general aviation was delivered when lawmakers for a fourth time approved AOPA-supported aviation project funding from the Multimodal Transportation Fund. In 2012, the state’s program awarded grants totaling over $7.25 million to 15 general aviation airports.
The specter of a fuel tax increase arose soon after the legislature convened in February and launched into a lengthy session focused on the state’s biennial budget.
When the tax proposal was introduced, AOPA and other organizations worked to make it clear to lawmakers that the measure contained an inequitable provision, “placing the burden of increased revenue entirely on general aviation activity,” said Greg Pecoraro, AOPA vice president of airports and state advocacy.
Oregon currently taxes jet fuel at just a penny a gallon—one of the lowest rates nationally—while taxing avgas at nine cents per gallon.
Pecoraro and AOPA Northwest Mountain Regional Manager David Ulane traveled to the state capitol in Olympia, meeting with key legislators including House Speaker Tina Kotek and Sen. Betsy Johnson, a longtime aviation advocate for aviation.
AOPA, the Oregon Pilots Association, and other industry groups support additional funding for the Oregon Division of Aeronautics. The agency, faced with declining tax revenue from reduced aviation activity, confronts serious challenges for funding its operation and maintenance of the 28 airports owned and operated by the state. But saddling avgas users with the entire burden for raising revenue “would not provide significant benefit to the state’s aviation system, which is used by both piston and turbine powered aircraft,” Pecoraro said.
The issue will remain a high priority for AOPA and its advocacy allies in the state.
“Moving forward, AOPA will continue to work with the Oregon Pilots Association, the division of aeronautics, elected officials, and others to discover opportunities for equitable, effective and sustainable funding for the state’s excellent system of 97 airports,” said Mark Kimberling, AOPA director of state government affairs.
The session’s minimal impact on general aviation was “an excellent example of AOPA’s state advocacy and regional manager engagement working for AOPA members,” he added.
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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