It’s a familiar story: Facing a severe budget shortfall, the state legislature is considering drawing money from sources such as the aeronautics fund to cover the difference.
But the initially proposed $2 million transfer from the aviation fund seems to have not been enough for some South Dakota legislators. Included in House Bill 1083 was a proposal to transfer an additional $1.5 million out of the account. AOPA saw this as excessive and communicated with the governor, wrote to key members of the House and Senate, and met with members of the House to help defeat the bill.
“AOPA understands that all sectors will face cuts to some degree,” said AOPA Manager of State Legislative Affairs Mark Kimberling, “but it is important that aviation is not viewed as a ‘low hanging fruit’ and subject to cuts beyond what is commensurate with other sectors.”
Federal investments in airports require state and local matching funds, so taking unreasonable amounts of money from the South Dakota aviation fund for other purposes could jeopardize millions in federal funding for airports if the state is ever unable to meet future matching grant obligations.
The bill was twice put to a vote, and twice failed to get enough support to pass. AOPA Central Regional Representative Bill Hamilton went to Pierre to meet with House members prior to the second vote Feb. 23, and AOPA will work to make sure that any final budget deal doesn’t place an unfair burden on aviation.
Money sits in the aeronautics fund until it is awarded in grants to aviation-related projects around the state. Because a balance remains in the fund, it can become a target for raids to cover the state’s other costs. So AOPA worked with local aviation groups and airport managers to convince the state aeronautics division vote to increase the state’s share of state and local matching funds for federal airport grants; instead of letting the account build up only to have it raided, the commission will be investing that money in the state’s aviation infrastructure as intended.