AOPA officials told some 150 attendees at the Ohio Aviation Association's (OAA) fall conference that an OAA proposal to impose a new 3-cent-per-gallon excise tax on avgas and jet A fuel was the "wrong idea at the wrong time," adding that the cost of flying is a top concern for AOPA members, particularly with the current high cost of fuel.
"The OAA has been urging our Ohio members to lobby AOPA in support of a new tax. Thus far, less than a handful of our 14,000 Ohio members have told us this new tax is a good idea," said Owen Sweeney, AOPA manager of regional affairs, who joined Bill Leavens, AOPA eastern regional representative, at the OAA conference Wednesday near Columbus. "AOPA works to keep flying affordable for its members, and the association remains skeptical that a new tax - particularly with today's record fuel costs - will benefit Ohio pilots."
The OAA plan would place the tax in a dedicated aviation fund. AOPA pointed out that putting the money in a dedicated fund would not prevent it from being raided by legislators, citing two recent examples in California and Illinois.
An impromptu OAA poll of FBO and airport managers, who are also AOPA members, in attendance revealed a majority of them in support of the new tax, but they also admitted that they would benefit from the tax.
A tax on avgas also would unfairly target general aviation pilots.
"Any tax on avgas would fall primarily upon our members," Sweeney said. "The typical general aviation pilot pays for fuel out of his own pocket, but corporate operators and airlines can pass off the extra cost to their customers."
AOPA also suggested that the OAA, which is comprised primarily of airport managers and FBOs, continue its lobbying efforts to fund airports and build support outside the aviation community from groups such as local chambers of commerce and economic development organizations. One way AOPA has been able to keep the cost of flying affordable for members is through its lobbying efforts.
"AOPA is on Capitol Hill every day trying to make sure that Congress fully funds the Airport Improvement Program," Sweeney said. "We would definitely work with the OAA to lobby for increased general fund appropriations to the state's airports, but it makes no sense, politically or financially, to support a new tax on our members."
Some Ohio legislators have said they would not support a fuel excise tax that AOPA opposes.
Updated: October 21, 2005, 2:38 p.m. EDT