NBAA, Others in General Aviation Welcome Win in WA State Tax Battle

Final passage of the spending bill which set aside an onerous tax proposal for aircraft – which was approved without the tax on Monday – came near the end of a special legislative session.


Washington, DC, April 14, 2010 – The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) today applauded the Washington State legislature’s recent decision to set aside an onerous tax proposal for aircraft, which had been debated for possible inclusion in the state’s annual spending package.

Final passage of the spending bill – which was approved without the tax on Monday – came near the end of a special legislative session called by Governor Chris Gregoire after the legislature’s regular session expired at the end of March.

In welcoming the development, NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen said: “We have long said that when our industry collectively makes its voice heard, we can help shape policies that impact the business aviation community. We applaud the many NBAA Members and took the critical step of contacting their elected representatives – that unified mobilization was critical to a positive outcome.”

The tax proposal was offered by Washington state lawmakers as a means to address a shortfall in annual revenues to fund state programs. Facing a budget deficit, legislators had alternately proposed either a 0.5-percent tax on all aircraft (raising the existing aircraft registration fee by as much as 1,400 percent), or an equally onerous taxation method based on a complicated chart of aircraft types and manufacture dates.

To oppose the tax hike, NBAA and its Members banded with others in a unified grassroots coalition, known as the Washington Aviation Coalition (WAC). The WAC included the Pacific Northwest Business Aviation Association (PNBAA), Members of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the Washington Pilots Association and others.

The coalition presented state policymakers with a unified message based on a central fact: General aviation, including business aviation, is a major economic driver in the State of Washington, supporting 178,375 jobs and producing $140,774,869 in wages. Either of the tax-hike proposals would likely decrease tax revenues and drive business out of the state.

“Legislators didn’t have a clear understanding of the true economic impact of aviation in the state of Washington,” said PNBAA Board Chairman Jim Bennett. “FBOs wouldn’t sell enough fuel, so their margins would get thinner and thinner. Airports that would be impacted by those airplanes that moved to another state. Clearly, the impact was greater than the legislators had anticipated.”

Bennett’s fellow PNBAA Board Member, Chuck Kegley, agreed: “One voice, one message was the single driving premise for our group,” he said. “Jobs, jobs, jobs. Aviation contributes immensely to the local and regional tax bases already, and any additional burden of a new tax may be enough to push these operators and aircraft owners to consider cheaper options, outside the state of Washington.”

WAC Chair Ryan Zulauf echoed Kegley’s assessment: ““We pooled our resources in the effort to defeat the aircraft excise tax, he said. “This is the first time we’ve ever done that, and it was really effective.”

NBAA and its Member representatives supported the coalition’s work by attending meetings with lawmakers to outline concerns, providing testimony at legislative committee hearings on the issue, and sending multiple “Call to Action” messages to NBAA Members to ask them to make their voices heard on the matter.

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