House Bill 4775, House Budget Bill Section 27.ag, which would provide $500,000 in recurring, dedicated airport maintenance and capital improvement funding legislation, passed the House, and it’s now in the Senate. The commerce subcommittee of the Senate Finance Committee is seeking an increase to $1.5 million in the Senate version of the bill. This bill affects pilots, aircraft owners, FBOs, flight schools, and airports throughout the state by increasing the resources available to the Department of Commerce, Aeronautics Division, to build and maintain airports. The bill supplements the existing revenue to the state aviation fund from avgas sales taxes and will provide crucial additional leverage needed to maximize state grants under the federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP). AOPA strongly supports this legislation and urges all members to act now.
This legislation will begin to equalize South Carolina airport capital and maintenance spending with other states in the region. It would take more than $40 million to bring the state’s airports up to current safety and operational standards. All other states in the region spend more on their airports than South Carolina. These include the following 1998 figures: Florida, $83 million; Georgia, $38 million; North Carolina, $11 million; Tennessee, $9 million; and Virginia, $7 million. In 1999, South Carolina collected $1.19 million and spent $617,546. Neglect of general aviation airports negatively impacts the whole aviation system.
Members are urged to contact the members of the Senate Finance Committee as well as their elected senator. Ask them to vote in support of the airport-funding proviso and to increase its dollar amount. Letters and faxes are most effective, but e-mail and phone contacts are useful too. Be sure that the first line of your letter clearly states that the letter or e-mail is submitted in strong support of H.B. 4775, proviso Section 27.ag (Aviation Grants). It is important to describe how you feel the lack of airport funding affects you and your aviation operations personally. It is certainly fair game to point to the minimal resources expended on aviation and airports in the state since the reorganization of the Aeronautics Commission in 1993, particularly as compared with other states in the region. Thank your senator for considering the matter and acting favorably in support of you, his or her constituent.
April 5, 2000