News & Information You’ll Want To Know In Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota & South Dakota
by Bryan Budds
Manager, AOPA Great Lakes Region
From many of AOPA’s publications, you have undoubtedly read quite a bit about AOPA’s efforts to protect pilots from onerous government regulations and restrictions and that is certainly our core mission on your behalf. However, AOPA also has an incredible staff that digs deeply into federal, state, and local government attempts to restrict, limit, or hinder the general aviation airports that pilots and community members rely so heavily on. I wanted to share with you briefly just some of the things we have been working on over the year to protect our general aviation airports across the region.
In Ohio, the state that is incredibly proud of its motto of “birthplace of aviation,” we have been working closely with allied associations, airport managers, and state officials to increase funds available for the State Airport Grant Program. For the last several years, the legislature has approved less than $1 million annually for airport construction programs and for state shares of federal airport grants. AOPA strongly believes the industry can only remain strong if general aviation airports are made a priority in the state.
Over the course of the last six months, a number of proposals have been circulated in Columbus, which would have addressed this issue. Changes to the tax structure, dedication of existing revenue streams, and budget appropriations were all on the table. As lawmakers pushed the topic forward, the leading proposal was a $6 million budget appropriation, which would increase airport funds six-fold. However, as you can imagine, there was a catch – a catch AOPA strongly opposed. The budget appropriation would have allowed a committee of legislators and aerospace industry professionals to oversee the disbursement of airport grants traditionally administered by the Ohio Department of Transportation.
While this committee is an important tool in growing the awareness of Ohio’s aerospace and aviation communities, AOPA strongly objected to the insertion of partisan politics into an established and efficient airport grant program.
After countless visits to Columbus, AOPA members contacting their legislators, and a 2:30 am conference committee hearing, I am pleased to share with you that an additional $6 million will be made available to the State Airport Grant Program with none of the caveats mentioned above.
A similar debate is occurring in Lansing, Michigan where the Michigan Department of Transportation’s airport grant program is dwindling. To address this issue, a number of friendly legislators have stepped forward to take a stand for the state’s GA airports. Proposals to increase the support of Michigan’s Airport Fund include a $10 million annual appropriation, dedicating a portion of existing aviation fuel sales tax revenue to the fund, and overhauling the tax rates for aviation fuel, are all on the table.
Since Michigan is a full-time legislature, many bills are introduced early in the year and are not acted upon until the fall, and this is the case again this year. Rest assured, AOPA will be hard at work in Lansing to make sure our general aviation airports are appropriately funded.
I also want to make mention of a few of our airport issues that are not legislatively oriented.
In Michigan, AOPA has been working closely with a group of airport users, both tenant and transient, that have fallen victim to an airport authority that is determined to restrict access to Mason Jewett Airport and set the stage for eventual closure. Fortunately, the airport community, AOPA, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Michigan Department of Transportation does not take restrictions at a federally funded public airport kindly. In columns to come, you will hear much more about this issue as it ripens.
Returning again to Ohio, just this week AOPA has been alerted to a rather troublesome development at Alexander Salamon Airport near West Union, Ohio. Several recent reports indicate the local municipality has undertaken a project to remodel the airport terminal as a housing unit for low risk county prisoners. AOPA is actively pursuing several avenues to prevent such a misuse of an aeronautical asset.
I hope this quick glance into AOPA’s efforts to protect airports in the region gives you a deeper understanding of AOPA’s dedication to a stronger pilot community, a robust airport network, and to you as a member.
If you have any questions on these issues or issues in your area, please let me know! firstname.lastname@example.org