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Event spotlights Washington State's aviation funding gap

The state of Washington will require about $12 million a year to fund its share of improvements for its 134 public-use airports over the next 20 years. But officials project that the state will only generate $1.4 million annually for the aviation system’s upkeep under current funding mechanisms.

During the 2015 Airport Awareness Day event held Feb. 9 at the state Capitol in Olympia, groups discussed how to address that shortfall and made the case that more aviation-generated revenue should be reinvested in the state’s aviation needs.

David Ulane, AOPA Northwest regional manager, participated in Washington State’s third annual event designed to inform legislators, legislative staff, committee staff, and the governor’s office about statewide aviation system needs.

Ulane joined leaders from the Washington State Department of Transportation’s Aviation Division, representatives of several airports, and other state and national aviation associations, to convince state legislators of the importance of general aviation and airports in the state. AOPA supports the event, which is hosted by the Washington Airport Management Association and the Washington Community Airports Association.

With funding needs of paramount importance, two legislative measures, House Bill 1526 and Senate Bill 5324, could serve as the springboard to require the allocation of 100 percent of state aircraft excise taxes to aviation-related purposes.

“Currently, only 10 percent of aircraft excise tax revenue is dedicated to aviation purposes, and 90 percent goes to the state’s general fund,” said Ulane.

The bills have been assigned respectively to the Washington House Committee on Appropriations and the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

To make the case for increased aviation infrastructure investment even clearer, state aviation officials briefed elected representatives and staffers on a study, now in its second phase, “to identify and analyze potential solutions to meet Washington’s aviation system needs.”

The second phase, or the “solutions phase,” of the Airport Investment Solutions Study is seeking ways to address funding gaps revealed when the initial study phase “found that the state’s 134 public-use airports will need $3.6 billion in projects during the next 20 years.”

“WSDOT’s Airport Aid Program provides an average of $1.1 million in state airport grants per year. During the 20-year study period the state grant program is forecasted to average $1.4 million per year. WSDOT estimates an average of $12 million per year is needed to meet the state’s portion of the overall $3.6 billion in project needs,” it says.

Ulane urged pilots to follow the progress of the two bills through the legislative process, and to express their support for the measures to their state House and Senate members.

AOPA, through its Regional Manager program, participates in many events to ensure that members have a voice in state aviation and airport issues. Through the events, AOPA also helps key decision makers and elected officials understand the importance of general aviation and have members’ positions on aviation issues brought to their attention.

In addition to AOPA, organizations that supported Aviation Awareness Day included the National Business Aviation Association, Washington Pilots Association, Washington Seaplane Pilots Association, the Recreational Aviation Foundation, the Pacific Northwest Business Aviation Association, the Washington Aviation Association, and the Washington Public Ports Association.

“When aviation associations collaborate and collectively tackle general aviation issues, it gets legislators’ and policymakers’ attention,” Ulane said. “Through these advocacy efforts, AOPA is fostering better relationships between airports, users, elected officials, and regulators—and that helps protect airports and general aviation.”

Dan Namowitz
Dan Namowitz
Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 35-year AOPA member.
Topics: Advocacy, Taxes, Aviation Organizations

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