Two key pieces of AOPA-backed legislation moved forward recently in South Carolina and in Florida, measures that will respectively help ensure that airports are maintained, and that aircraft sales and aviation employment grow.
In South Carolina, the state’s House of Representatives unanimously passed a $5 million funding bill that will ensure adequate funding for the state’s ongoing and future aviation projects, while also supplying needed matching funds for the state to qualify for FAA Airport Improvement Program grants.
House Bill 4577 is one of two measures before the General Assembly that are designed to provide the state’s aeronautics commission with the necessary funds to continue to maintain South Carolina’s commercial and general aviation airports. A companion bill in the state Senate is still in the committee stage.
“This measure is an important step forward for aviation in the state,” said Steve Hedges, AOPA Southern regional manager. “Right now the state has only $300,000 in its accounts for capital expenditures, and these new funds will mean that needed airport projects will receive funding, and that South Carolina will be eligible for millions of dollars in FAA airport grants. And the bill makes this funding permanent in future years.”
The House bill requires that property taxes collected on aircraft be allocated to the state aeronautics commission for use on airport maintenance. Currently, those tax proceeds go into the state’s general fund, where they can be spent on a variety of projects that have nothing to do with aviation.
In Florida, the state’s Senate Finance Committee unanimously approved a measure that would eliminate the 6 percent sales tax on aircraft. Currently, many aircraft owners fly their airplanes out of state to complete a sale to avoid the tax.
Long-time Florida aviation businessman Bob Showalter and Hedges testified before the committee prior to the vote on the bill, which was pressed forward by state Sen. Thad Altman. The House declined to include a similar measure in its recently passed tax package, but the Finance Committee’s vote means that the sales tax exemption could be included in a final tax package approved by both chambers.
A recent study funded by AOPA and the Florida Aviation Business Administration showed that eliminating the tax would create more than 354 new aircraft sales in the state every year, provide more than 294 new permanent jobs and generate $324 million in revenue that the state’s aviation industry and the communities it serves are now missing out on.