(L-R) St. Sen. Mike Jungbauer, Gov. Tim Pawlenty,
Apr. 29, 2004 - AOPA President Phil Boyer gave a "heads up" warning to Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-Minn.) that the growing controversy over funding of the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) reliever airports could pose serious political problems in the future.
Boyer and AOPA Vice President of Regional Affairs Roger Cohen met with Pawlenty, his top staff, and AOPA member and state Senator Mike Jungbauer (R-Anoka) prior to Thursday's presentation to the MAC.
"Governor Pawlenty clearly understands the issue. However, he believes that a reasonable increase may be needed but that we need a reasonable period of time to implement any changes," said Boyer. The rates have been raised only once since the early 1960s.
The Metropolitan Airports Commission, a majority of whom are Pawlenty appointees, has been under strong pressure from Northwest Airlines to alter funding of the MAC system so that general aviation users pay increased fees. Northwest's CEO, Richard Anderson, has escalated the issue nationally with an anti-GA essay in his airline's in-flight magazine which in turn led to a USA Today editorial, a traveler-friendly newspaper in which Northwest advertises heavily.
Ironically, Boyer's meeting with Pawlenty and presentation to the MAC occurred the same day Northwest announced its four top executives, including Anderson, were granted more than $6 million in new stock bonuses. At the same time the airline reported a first-quarter loss of some $236 million.
"Our 8,000 Minnesota members need to continue to make their voices heard, particularly with the MAC and Gov. Pawlenty," said Boyer. "Northwest will keep pushing political buttons locally and, as we've seen, on a national level. But AOPA will not allow Northwest - or any other airline - to dictate the future of general aviation."