Does your state’s legislature have an aviation caucus? Is your legislator a member?
Is the aviation industry on the move in your state? Or is it a “doughnut hole” area—that is, a state surrounded by others that have an edge attracting aviation businesses or keeping businesses based there from moving out?
If your state’s aviation industry is thriving—adding jobs, capturing new customers, and investing in airports and infrastructure—it’s likely that AOPA and other advocacy groups made the case for those gains with policymakers by working on specific legislation and also by discussing the issues informally at such gatherings as Aviation Day events at numerous states’ capitals, and at regional and national conferences.
AOPA’s states-advocacy agenda this year consists of legislation that can make its way through the lawmaking process in a single year’s session and multi-year initiatives aimed at broader policy overhauls. There are approximately 30 legislative initiatives planned for the 2017 legislative year in the states, said Jared Esselman, AOPA director of state government affairs.
Reining in the taxation of aviation, and making sure that its proceeds are reinvested in the airport system, is always a major focus. In Virginia, for example, this year AOPA will be working with aviation businesses as they strive to win passage of a sales tax exemption for parts and labor for the maintenance of aircraft.
“AOPA has been made aware that there are maintenance and repair organizations expressing interest in entering the Virginia aviation industry if the exemption passes,” Esselman said.
Similar initiatives are shaping up this year in Utah—a doughnut-hole state—and Texas, where the legislature meets every two years and where “some real traction” has become evident for the effort, Esselman said.
Utah earns its doughnut-hole designation “because every state around it either has a full exemption on aircraft parts or a partial exemption of some variety,” he said.
Tax exemption proposals are on the agenda for Kentucky, and in North Carolina, where airports also would benefit from another effort to redirect surcharges imposed on rental cars.
Making Vermont’s maintenance parts tax exemption permanent, and extending it to cover aircraft sales, is supported by the Green State’s newly elected Gov. Phil Scott, said Esselman, who discussed the issue with Scott at the Republican Governors Association conference in Orlando, Florida, in November.
“He said he knows Vermont has to stay competitive in New England. Every state around Vermont does not charge a sales and use tax on the maintenance or sale of aircraft,” Esselman said. He added that Scott was among supporters of the measure when it was introduced a decade ago.
Hawaii and New Mexico are the only two states that tax flight training, and AOPA will be supporting an effort to repeal the tax in New Mexico this year. Hawaii is also the only state that issues criminal citations for hangar and aircraft parking infractions—another onerous provision AOPA will work to retire, Esselman said.
Meetings like the governors’ conference give advocates an opportunity to present overviews of GA’s concerns, and reaffirm the benefits of pro-GA legislation enacted in previous legislative sessions. Esselman learned in conversations with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, for example, that the state “has seen a significant increase in aviation maintenance jobs and an increase in aviation business altogether” since passing an aircraft maintenance tax exemption measure in 2014.
Flight safety is enhanced in many states as a result of successful advocacy for such measures as regulating meteorological evaluation towers, and laws giving private landowners incentive to open their airstrips to recreational users without liability concerns.
It’s all part of the advocacy conducted year in and year out by AOPA staff, a network of seven regional managers, and a corps of 2,500 Airport Support Network volunteers serving AOPA members.