April 12, 2004
The Honorable Emil Jones, Jr.
President of the Senate
Springfield, IL 62706
The Honorable Michael J. Madigan
Speaker of the House
Illinois House of Representatives
Springfield, IL 62706
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) is the world's largest aviation association representing more than 400,000 members nationwide and some14,000 in Illinois. AOPA represents the flying interests of general aviation, which is all flying except for commercial airlines and military operations. The contributions of general aviation to Illinois oftentimes go unrecognized. A March 2000 study concluded that Illinois airports - excluding the Chicago area airports 1 - generated approximately $2.1 billion in annual economic activity across hundreds of communities statewide.
AOPA would like to express to you our serious concerns with the Blagojevich administration's proposed FY2005 IDOT Capitol Budget and the effects the proposed cuts to aviation funding and staffing would have on the continued development of the state's airport system.
In comparison to other IDOT programs, Aeronautics will suffer disproportionately in the governor's budget plan. The proposal calls for a 22% reduction in funding and aviation staffing cuts from 74 to 39 people. In comparison, the Highways Department would experience only a 2% reduction in staffing with minor funding cuts, while Rail receives increased funding and loses only six staff positions.
The proposed Aeronautics cuts will have a substantial impact on the safety and efficiency of your state aviation system. Illinois is one of only eight states nationwide that participates in the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) State Block Grant Program. In this role for the FAA, the state administers federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants, allowing the state to take a more active role in planning its airport system.
Adequate staffing is critical to this effort, and any reduction in staffing could seriously jeopardize the state's ability to obtain FAA grants and the ability for Illinois to receive and leverage federal funds.
Likewise, a reduction of Aeronautics funding could harm the state's ability to meet the matching requirements of a federal airport improvement grant. In addition to airport development, the Aeronautics' fund also administers pilot safety education, airport zoning programs, airport safety inspections, and minimum standard developments. These programs are critical to ensuring the safety of airports in your state and their continued compatibility with the communities they serve.
On behalf of our 14,000 Illinois-based members, we seek your leadership and support for resolving the proposed FY2005 IDOT Capitol Budget, to ensure that aviation is not unfairly singled out with dramatic cuts that stand to inhibit the state's safe growth and development of aviation and airports.
Thank you for your consideration, and we look forward to working with you and the entire Illinois General Assembly on protecting the state's aviation infrastructure.
1 Study prepared for Illinois DOT Division of Aviation excluded O'Hare, Midway and Meigs Field