California's Division of Aeronautics is taking a $4.8-million hit under an austere new budget signed into law by Gov. Gray Davis (D-Calif.). AOPA is urging state senators in Sacramento to approve a bill (Senate Bill 1048) that would restore the lost aeronautics funds.
In a letter to Gov. Davis urging him to support and sign the senate bill, AOPA President Phil Boyer chided the governor for taking tax money paid only by aviation users specifically to fund the state's aviation needs.
"Without these funds, there would be a dramatic decrease in funding for aeronautics programs, and the safety and utility of many general aviation airports would be adversely impacted," wrote Boyer. "These funds are derived from taxes paid by users of the aviation system and should not be diverted from their intended use."
Boyer also pointed out that a soon-to-be-released report on the economic impact of aviation in California will show that nine percent of the state's economic activity is related to aviation.
"We know that California is facing some very hard choices," Boyer said. "Although aviation is not being singled out in these cuts, we believe that slashing aviation funding as they have is extremely short-sighted."
The state's director of Aeronautics, Austin Wiswell, has already warned airport managers that $2.9 million in state-funded airport projects are on hold, as are $2.5 million in state matching funds for federal airport improvement program projects. He plans to meet his payroll and then dole out what little is left over to a handful of already-approved airport projects.
In the meantime, AOPA and other aviation advocates continue to work the halls of the state capitol, trying to convince senators that restoring aviation funding is in the state's best interest.