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Aircraft Owners Breath Sigh of Relief in Washington - For Now

April 15, 2010 — A coalition of aviation organizations and enthusiasts in the state of Washington has successfully fought legislation that would have created a considerable excise tax increase for the state’s aircraft owners. Both the House and Senate approved a conference committee report that removed an annual 0.5 percent excise tax on all state’s aircraft. The bill has been forwarded to Governor Chris Gregoire for her signature.

“This was a successful effort, and quite a few organizations were involved representing the entire spectrum of aviation in the state of Washington,” said John Townsley, legislative director of the Washington Pilots Association. “But now that game is over. We need to get a plan going forward, because there’s quite a bit of work to be done.” Townsley noted that the state faces a $5 billion budget deficit next fiscal year, and work on the state’s aviation infrastructure has been deferred to the tune of $400 million.

“We (aviation interests) need to get on the offensive and propose a solution we can live with for the next session,” he continued. He added that the pavement condition index (PCI) is declining rapidly at a number of airport runways. “And our investment to date has been woefully inadequate. It would cost 18 times more to have to replace runways rather than properly maintain them.”

Townsley credits a number of organizations for the successful effort to remove the airplane excise tax provision, including EAA chapters and chapter members, the Washington Pilots Association, the National Business Aviation Association, Airport Management, AOPA, aerial applicators, individual pilots, and others.

“One of EAA’s prime missions is to ensure the affordability of recreational aviation and we viewed the proposed excise tax as an issue that would have had a huge negative impact on our member’s ability to enjoy aviation,” stated Randy Hansen, EAA government relations director.  “We look forward to continuing working with the WPA coalition in developing long-term economic solutions to the sustainability of general aviation airports and aviation as a whole in the state of Washington.”

“They were engaged in communicating to the legislature the serious threat posed by the excise tax to general aviation businesses in the short and long term,” Hansen said. “Aviation is a critical asset, and this tax was disproportionately high as compared to other area states. Townsley added, “Now we need to move forward and achieve a vision. EAA will be a key player.”

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