June 23, 2010

In recent years, Bay State legislators have noticed that the state was slowly losing airports – and with them, a good chunk of the state’s economy. “Once you lose them, they never come back,” notes State Rep. Don Humason, chairman of the Massachusetts Legislative Aviation Caucus, in describing the airport closures.

What began five years ago with just a handful of legislators with airports in their districts has expanded to include 75 lawmakers from across the state. The caucus considers business aviation central to local jobs.

For that reason, both the caucus and the industry were recently focused on two attempts by state policymakers to repeal a sales tax exemption on aircraft. The message: Aircraft are mobile, so operators can simply move them – along with their businesses – to states more welcoming to general aviation. “We’ve been told by business owners ‘our margins are so tight, we’re in Massachusetts because of the tax exemption,'” says Humason.

The caucus also spends considerable time advocating for the small airports used by general aviation (GA). Humason notes that those airports sustain mostly the GA traffic that requires flightcrews, maintenance workers, avionics technicians, food vendors, rental cars and fuel. “Aviation attracts highly skilled technicians, which means higher incomes, which means more income tax and property tax on the homes they buy,” he says.

Equally important, local businesses depend on those aircraft to grow, prosper and ultimately hire, adds Humason.

Aviation supporters rallied May 11 on Beacon Hill in Boston to underscore how airports and aviation activity drive economic growth and jobs across the commonwealth. Advocacy Day brought aviation stakeholders, including NBAA representatives, face-to-face with the caucus as well as the speaker of the house and the chairmen of the Joint Committee on Revenue and the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

The message echoed that communicated by NBAA through the No Plane, No Gain advocacy campaign, which educates policymakers and opinion leaders about the importance of business aviation to citizens, companies and communities – in Massachusetts and across the U.S.

In recent months, as state legislatures have sought to address budget shortfalls, NBAA and others have mobilized in several states with the simple grassroots message that general aviation is about jobs, company productivity and transportation access for communities with little or no airline service.

Onerous taxation and other policy proposals can needlessly hamper the companies and towns that rely on business aviation. The situation “creates a doubtful and uncertain future that business owners don’t want hanging over them, says Humason. “That’s why we need to educate policymakers nationally and locally.”

Direct questions about business aviation issues in Massachusetts to NBAA Northeast Regional Representative Dean Saucier at dsaucier@nbaa.org.