November 26, 2013
By Dan Namowitz
Rallying support for the protection and development of Washington State’s system of 136 public-use airports is the goal of a new aviation caucus of the state's legislature.
AOPA actively supported formation of the Washington State legislative aviation caucus, which held its first meeting Nov. 22 in the state capitol of Olympia.
The caucus, initially composed of nine members of Washington’s House and Senate, plans to hold two strategy sessions during the 2014 lawmaking session—a session in which key aviation policy decisions could come up for action, said David Ulane, AOPA Northwest/Mountain regional manager, who will be in attendance to represent AOPA members.
The caucus’s launch is "very timely" because the state’s lawmakers are awaiting the April 2014 completion of a consultant’s report identifying long-term needs of the state’s aviation system, and providing recommendations on how to fund the "significant investments" that will be required for its upkeep, Ulane said.
Under current budget policy, the state collects approximately $791 million in aviation-generated tax revenue but allocates about $548 million of that amount to the general fund, not to aviation.
The caucus also set a goal of identifying and supporting aviation manufacturing businesses that would find it advantageous to expand or relocate in Washington State, he said.
On Sept. 23, Greg Pecoraro, AOPA vice president of government affairs, and Ulane met with state Sen. Jim Honeyford (R-District 15) to assist his leadership efforts toward the creation of the aviation caucus, providing background on similar organizations in other states.
"The establishment of the legislative caucus will provide an effective forum for discussing the recommendations expected from the aviation-system study, and should provide a vital communications network for advancing proposals to improve the system and its airports," Pecoraro said.
Washington State has been a focal point for AOPA’s advocacy efforts to oppose increased aviation taxes, working in concert with Les Smith, president of the Washington Pilots Association, and other organizations including the Washington State Community Airports Association, Washington Airport Management Association, The National Business Aviation Association, and the Pacific Northwest Business Aviation Association.
Ulane encouraged AOPA members who live in Washington State to urge their elected representatives to join the new caucus. Its founding members include Honeyford and Sen. Annette Cleveland (D-District 49), and Reps. Mark Hargrove (R-District 47), Dave Hayes (R-District 10), Norm Johnson (R-District 14), Brad Klippert (R-District 8), Drew McEwan (R-District 35), Dean Takko (D-District 19), and Gael Tarleton (D-District 36).
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor.
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