February 11, 2014
By Dan Namowitz
AOPA and members of Florida’s aviation industry will make a strong bid to pass a tax exemption for aircraft sales and purchases in the Sunshine State in 2014.
Success would boost prospects for Florida aviation businesses and bring more based aircraft to the state. But it will take a unified aviation-industry advocacy effort to move the issue forward, because the two bills introduced into Florida’s House and Senate face a gauntlet of procedural hurdles, said Mark Kimberling, AOPA director of state government affairs. This year’s short legislative session and election-year politics will make passage an uphill battle.
"Proactive legislative initiatives of this nature—especially given their tax and fiscal nature—are tremendously challenging in the Florida Legislature," he said. "With three committees to clear in both chambers, and then conference negotiations that could kill a measure even if it passes both houses, the legislation will require a tremendous advocacy effort. AOPA and our allies will be in Tallahassee working to that end."
The effort will build on past attempts to enact a sales tax exemption on general aviation aircraft, with the Florida Aviation Trades Association, as well as Vero Beach, Fla.-based Piper Aircraft and other businesses, joining AOPA in making the case.
The advocates want to emphasize a key point with lawmakers: "Similar reform enacted in other states has revealed an unequivocal relationship between the flow of general aviation activity and significant disparities in state tax rates, as nearly all owners and operators fastidiously manage operating costs," Kimberling said.
The two proposals introduced in Florida are House Bill 821, which awaits committee assignment, and Senate Bill 818, assigned on Feb. 6 to the Commerce and Tourism Committee and the Appropriations subcommittee on finance and tax appropriations.
AOPA and the other advocates will urge prompt scheduling of hearings. AOPA members in Florida should watch for Action Alerts from AOPA as the legislative process moves forward, he said.
AOPA has also already weighed in on the issue with legislators as AOPA prepares to visit Tallahassee for the full effort. In a letter to legislative leaders, Greg Pecoraro, AOPA vice president of airports and state advocacy, referred to success in other states that passed similar economic measures. "Maine, as one of the more recent states to enact legislation of this nature, experienced such robust net business, revenue and job growth from its sales tax exemption that the legislature last year extended the sales tax exemption for an additional 25 years—just two years into the initially scheduled five-year sunset trial period," he said.
Now AOPA and its allies will turn their attention to Florida as next in line for tax reform.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor.
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