The newly formed Florida general aviation caucus met Jan. 14 to highlight the successes and needs of Florida’s GA community and build bridges and bonds between the state’s aviation and business leaders.
Tallahassee Regional Airport was abuzz with activity and within clear view of the meeting on the upper floor of the Florida statehouse when more than a half dozen state lawmakers convened to share ideas with the new general aviation group.
One of the topics discussed was an aircraft sales tax bill that would keep more general aviation dollars in the aviation-rich state rather than generate economic advantages for neighboring states.
Florida pilots currently pay a 6-percent sales tax when leasing or purchasing new or previously owned GA aircraft, which can amount to a substantial sum, said Jared Esselman, AOPA director of state government affairs.
“Some pilots are making arrangements to fly out of state to South Carolina for an aircraft sale because that state doesn’t charge sales tax on the transaction,” said Esselman. “The new Florida GA caucus, which AOPA spearheaded, has really opened the eyes to key movers and shakers about the aviation commerce we can keep in Florida.”
Esselman said state representatives and senators took time out from one of their busiest days of the 2016 legislative session to talk with the caucus.
“This is no longer AOPA’s meeting, or the Florida Aviation Business Association’s meeting—this has become Florida’s meeting and it has taken on a life of its own," Esselman said. "I believe it will continue to grow and continue to be fun and valuable for legislators as a way to connect the local airport with everyone in their district.”
In a state with no official caucuses, legislators have eagerly joined the GA caucus. It also provides AOPA members a chance to engage with their local legislators. Pilots are able to build relationships and share successes and concerns about the state’s aviation system said AOPA Southeast Regional Manager Steve Hedges.
Hedges urged Florida members to email their legislators and encourage them to join the GA caucus as well.