At Work Outside D.C.

Craig Fuller

by Craig L. Fuller
President & CEO
Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association

Everyone I meet all across the country seems to know that AOPA is hard at work representing general aviation before federal agencies, members of Congress, and other decision makers in Washington, D.C. But I’m often surprised to learn how little people know about our work on the state and local levels.

One area where we are particularly active is the issue of taxes and fees. Unless it’s a topic you follow closely, you’d probably be surprised to learn just how many and varied are the attempts to tax general aviation. Some states want to impose sales and use taxes on recently purchased aircraft that visit their airports, even if they are based elsewhere. Others want to tax parts and labor for aircraft repairs and maintenance, while still others hope to raise revenues with huge hikes in registration fees or blanket “luxury” taxes on small planes.

Whenever these issues arise—and they constantly do—AOPA is there, fighting to protect general aviation. We know that when taxes get too high, people stop flying. We also know that, more often than not, the revenues states and cities hope to generate with new or higher taxes will be canceled out by the loss of other forms of income. For instance, when one state wants to raise taxes on parts and labor for aircraft repairs, pilots simply take their planes elsewhere to have work done. That means less work for mechanics, FBOs, and airports in that state. It means fewer dollars spent on fuel, and ultimately fewer jobs. It’s a bad bargain all the way around.

Fortunately, our regional managers and state advocacy teams have plenty of data to make the case for GA. And, just as fortunately, state officials usually listen. We had a big win in March when a bill to expand a sales tax exemption for aircraft repairs and equipment cleared the Florida legislature. Under the new measure, aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight of only 2,000 pounds will be eligible for tax exemptions previously available only to aircraft weighing more than 15,000 pounds.

And we’ve seen important wins in other states, including Maine, Massachusetts, Idaho, Washington, South Dakota, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. At the same time, this is an issue that never truly goes away and we’re continuing to work on tax and fee concerns in Alaska, Maryland, Illinois, and elsewhere. So while it’s absolutely true that AOPA is your advocate in Washington, D.C., it’s equally true that, no matter where you live, we are hard at work much closer to home.

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