Virginia lawmakers have approved a bill backed by AOPA that will exempt aircraft parts and supplies from the state’s retail sales and use tax. The exemption, which could reduce the cost of a typical engine overhaul by $1,500 or more, is now headed to the governor’s desk.
AOPA joined the Virginia Aviation Business Association and the National Business Aviation Association in winning unanimous support in the state Senate, which followed a 91-5 vote in the Virginia House of Delegates. AOPA Director of State Government Affairs Jared Esselman and Eastern Regional Manager Sean Collins both testified in support of the bill, the passage of which was a priority on AOPA’s 2017 state advocacy agenda.
“While amending the legislation with a delayed implementation date was not ideal, this was a fair compromise given the bill’s perceived fiscal impact,” Collins said. “It was the difference between passing nearly unanimously or being ‘tabled’ in the first committee of referral, which would have forced us to start over in 2018. Instead, AOPA’s state legislative team worked tirelessly with other representatives of the local aviation industry including the Virginia Aviation Business Association and NBAA, and we determined best way to the needed outcome was agreeing to delay the bill’s implementation by one year. Now it’s done, and as of July 1, 2018, Virginia’s aviation maintenance industry will finally compete on level footing.”
VABA Executive Director Daniel “Bud” Oakey said the benefits of the new legislation will be tangible even before the law takes effect. Oakey has been in touch with four or five businesses already that are ready to invest in Virginia, once the exemption is on the books.
“My expectation is we will experience growth, measurable growth in Virginia before the enactment date of the legislation, because of this legislation,” Oakey said. “That’s powerful.”
Collins said AOPA members in Virginia can help close the deal by contacting Gov. Terry McAuliffe to express support for the bill, which will reduce the cost of many aircraft maintenance projects and upgrades. Making the state’s aviation shops more competitive will in turn create jobs in the state as it makes flying more affordable. Collins said aircraft owners will enjoy significant savings, measured in hundreds of dollars for typical avionics installations, ranging to $1,500 or more for an engine overhaul.
“That’s real savings for our members, and will allow Virginia-based businesses to remain competitive across the region,” Collins said. “It’s a true job creator.”
Oakey said the successful effort to gain recognition for aviation as an engine of job creation and economic growth has led to plans to make that an ongoing effort, with listening tours planned at airports across Virginia twice a year.
“We have a huge disconnect between government and the industry in understanding what this industry means as an economic driver, and we’re going to tackle that with these listening tours,” Oakey said, adding that support from AOPA and NBAA will be an important part of making that case.