Thanks to Representative Todd Clodfelter, District 10 in the Tucson area, we had our third successful General Aviation Caucus meeting in Phoenix on Tuesday March, 20th at the state legislature building.
On the agenda were two presentations: the first was by Adam Hawkins from Global External Relations, and the second was by Michael Racey, representing the Arizona Airports Association. Transportation Committee Chairman Noel Campbell, Representatives Travis Grantham of District 12, East Valley, and Bob Thorpe of District 6, Flagstaff, also attended.
Mr. Hawkins’ presentation centered around the aerospace industry in Arizona making it fifth in the country, as far as states go. He stressed that legislative policy was important to this industry and used the example of UAS testing being done at Benson, E95. Arizona’s climate, and relatively open airspace, makes it an ideal state for growth in aerospace testing.
Mr. Racey discussed protecting and enhancing Arizona’s Airport Improvement Program, and also discussed the frequent raiding of the state’s aviation tax fund by the Governor. He spent some time educating all of us on how and why this happens, and the reasons it is difficult to stop this practice. At times these funds have been swept into the general fund, with no regard for airport projects that had already begun, leaving these airports unable to complete projects that were already started, for lack of the funds necessary to gain the FAA airport improvement match funds that can reach as much as 95% of a project’s cost.
He made the following points to the legislators:
- We must all remain very active to insure the fund does not continue to be swept.
- We have amazing environmental and airspace conditions to build Arizona’s aviation related economy.
- Well maintained airports are necessary to attract new businesses to rural areas
- Legislative support is essential to help and protect our airports.
One challenge the aviation community has in the state’s budgeting process is the lack of understanding that the general public and many legislators have for aviation, especially the positive effects that GA and rural airports have in our state’s economy. With only a few legislators being pilots in our legislature, we are lacking knowledge and support from within. The only current pilots running for re-election are Tod Clodfelter, Travis Grantham, Noel Campbell, and Eddie Farnsworth, in the house, and no senators as far as we know. We don’t advocate for any specific candidate or candidates, but it certainly would be helpful to have more legislators that are knowledgeable in aviation.
There’s not been an agenda published for the next GA Caucus, but if anyone is interested in attending with me, please feel free to reach out.