The $50.5 billion budget Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland signed on July 17 included funding for the state’s airport grant program, providing money for runway and taxiway maintenance and obstruction removal. In the final two-year budget, the state House and Senate restored nearly three-fourths of the program’s funding—a victory for general aviation, considering that just a month ago the Senate had proposed cutting the entire the program over the next two years. Lawmakers were working to create a budget that would address the state’s $3.2 billion deficit.
“The legislature and the governor had to make tough decisions putting this budget together, with numerous funding cuts, including some to the airport grant program,” said AOPA Eastern Regional Representative Greg Winton, who met with Ohio legislators while the House and Senate were negotiating the budget proposal. “In the end, they recognized that airport funding is absolutely critical to the infrastructure of the state and to the economy as a whole, especially in these tough economic times.”
AOPA President Craig Fuller had written to the governor in June, explaining that cutting the airport grant program would have a negative impact on the state’s $10 billion aviation industry. Investing in airports, Fuller explained, is the key to economic growth.
AOPA’s Ohio members and Airport Support Network (ASN) volunteers played a major role in the effort to get this funding restored. In addition to the Action Alert sent to all of the association’s 13,700 Ohio members, the AOPA also encouraged ASN volunteers to personally urge pilots at their airports to contact the governor’s office about this issue. AOPA also worked with the Ohio Aviation Association on this state-level effort.
“This was certainly a success, considering the magnitude of the budget shortfall, thanks to the grassroots effort by our members and our strong group of ASN volunteers in the state,” said Mark Kimberling, AOPA manager of state legislative affairs. “Ohio’s pilots stepped up to make their voices heard and really made a difference.”