North Dakota's aviation growth presents challenges

A growing general aviation sector has an annual $1.5 billion impact in North Dakota, making support of the state’s 89 public-use airports a top legislative priority, AOPA and other aviation advocates told lawmakers at a recent State Capitol event.

AOPA, with more than 2,500 members in North Dakota, is also working to ensure that a proposed modification of state aircraft registration fees does not unfairly burden the owners of smaller aircraft.

Aviation industry organizations and businesses, representatives of the state aeronautics commission, Civil Air Patrol members, and other members of the aviation community gathered March 17 at the North Dakota State Capitol in Bismarck to present aviation’s economic impact and build legislators’ awareness of the importance of general aviation, said Bryan Budds, AOPA’s Great Lakes regional manager.

“The primary message of the event was the importance of ensuring adequate funding for airport infrastructure,” he said. “The Capitol event is an excellent opportunity to tell the story of North Dakota’s general aviation industry—especially the growth that has happened over the last few years.”

With that growth, Budds said, “comes infrastructure needs far beyond previous estimates”—a point the aviation advocates emphasized in their discussions with policymakers.

“Events such as Capitol Day help promote awareness of aviation’s contribution to the state and ensure that the needs of the general aviation community are taken into account during the legislative session,” he said.

Registration fees

In individual discussions, Budds conveyed the concerns of AOPA members “that any modification to current aircraft registration fees ensures fairness across aircraft types.”

The concerns arise from provisions of Senate Bill 2109 that, before amendment, would have allowed “non-legislative methods” to raise aircraft registration fees and tie rates to an economic index.

Portions of the bill’s language objectionable to GA aircraft owners were removed through amendment, but troubling aspects of the fee structure remain, Budds said in a letter to Rep. Dan Ruby (R-District 38), chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

“In some cases, large turbine powered aircraft will enjoy a reduced registration fee, but small single-engine aircraft bear the burden of doubled registration fees over several years as a consequence of the existing fee depreciation schedule being eliminated,” he wrote.

If new revenue is needed to run the state’s aviation system, as aviation activity increases, Budds urged lawmakers to “further amend Senate Bill 2109 to ensure that small general aviation operators are not forced to absorb a tax increase viewed as unfair and beneficial only to large, turbine-powered aircraft.”

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: Economic Impact, Advocacy, Aviation Industry

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