New Hampshire’s public airports could lose about 30 percent of their total state funding unless a bill to repeal aircraft registration fees is amended to cover the loss, AOPA said in legislative testimony.
The effect of House Bill 124 as now drafted on publicly owned, public-use airports would be “drastic,” said Sean Collins, AOPA Eastern regional representative, who traveled to Concord, New Hampshire, to testify before the House Transportation Committee on Jan. 18.
Aircraft owners based in New Hampshire pay about $63 a year in fees to register their aircraft—mostly light aircraft more than 10 years old. Registration fees for newer, heavier aircraft can run into thousands of dollars in the first year, putting New Hampshire at a competitive disadvantage with neighboring states like Massachusetts and Maine, he noted.
Of the total revenue collected in aircraft registration fees in 2015 and 2016, 75 percent went to the state’s general fund, with the remaining 25 percent credited to the state aeronautical fund for distribution to the public airports for “maintenance, operations, and capital improvements.” In Fiscal 2016, the airports’ share of $1.24 million in tax revenue amounted to $291 thousand, according to the bill’s fiscal note.
Collins told lawmakers the impact of the revenue drain would be exacerbated because the lost dollars provide the 10 percent state match for federal Airport Improvement Program project funding—meaning that every state dollar lost takes nine federal dollars with it.
AOPA has offered to work with lawmakers and the state’s aviation industry to cover the revenue shortfall. With the airport funding protected, the association would withdraw its opposition to the bill, he said.
Long term, AOPA believes the “careful and incremental application of taxes on aviation fuel to be the fair and most efficient mechanism to ensure dedicated airport funding,” Collins said, adding that New Hampshire does not now directly reinvest revenue from its regionally low fuel tax in its airport system.
“Although the intent of the proposal is sound transportation policy, this approach is incomplete because it fails to address the need to fund the airports that are vital to the preservation of the general aviation sector in New Hampshire,” he said.
A committee recommendation on the bill is expected by Feb. 9, according to legislative records.