DOT: 'No kidding crunch time for Alaska Aviators'
Extra taxes on private and commercial planes in Alaska could keep some pilots grounded longer than they'd like.
"One will say, if you can afford an airplane then you can afford a tax of $150 dollars," Lars Gleitsmann, President of the Knit Flying Club said. "It is a death by a thousand cuts, so what's next?"
General aviation numbers are on a gradual decline both nationally and in the state of Alaska. In fact, according to the Department of Transportation, a large percentage of communities in Alaska are not connected to the road system.
"Airplanes, like these, are performing essential services," Gleitsmann said. "One of our club members visits his family in the bush with this airplane. That's his means of flying to his family and taking supplies to his family. Anybody that has an airplane outside that is open to theft, vandalism, deterioration, is definitely not wealthy."
Gleitsmann also wants people to know that just because you own a plane, it doesn't mean you're made of money or flying to London to go shopping.
"Reality is, it's people like plumbers or small businessmen or truck drivers or common people that, own a common airplane," Gleitsmann said. "A lot of these private planes are old. Mine is from the 1970s and is considered a newer model. Most planes are from the 1960s, '50s or even '40s. Some people build their own, took them 20 years to build in their garages. I drive the car. I drive so I can save my money to fly."
While no one wants to see the cost to fly increase, the state's financial situation is serious. Governor Walker's Aviation Advisory Board is looking at every option to increase state revenues.
"We are in no kidding crunch time right now," Rich Sewell, Aviation Policy Planner with the DOT said. "The taxes and fees that are proposed are nothing new. States like Washington have state registration fees. We have a budget for the state's 242 airports of $40 million. With our current fees and taxes, it amounts to $10 million. In years past, we'd get the other $30 million from the state's general fund. We're not getting that anymore."
Sewell says that the avgas tax is at 4.7 cents per gallon which brought in only $453,000. Jet fuel is taxed at 3.2 cents per gallon and generated around $4 million.
"We have to make up the difference somewhere," Sewell said. "We are looking at every possibility and the fuel tax and registration fees are just ideas right now. We may not be able to make up the $30 million, but if we can chip away at it and possibly get it down to $15 million, maybe we can get close by cutting some hours at airports."
Sewell understands how important private and commercial pilots are to the area.
"Over three-fourths of the state isn't connected to roads," Sewell said. "I understand that, but we have to do something."
"This could set a precedent, and I think that is what a lot of people are worried about," State Representative George Rauscher said. "The gas tax I believe a lot of pilots would get behind. Pilots feel the taxes would be spread more evenly between them. So in other words, a pilot that does more flying would pay more in taxes."
Currently, when it comes to gas taxes, Alaska ranks near the very bottom in the country.
If you have a solution or idea, you're invited to join the final of three meetings being held on the topic. The meeting is on November 20 at the Alaska DOT & PF located at 4111 Aviation Avenue in Anchorage.
Or email email@example.com and please send AOPA a copy of your comments.
Comments must be received by 5:00 pm Alaska Standard time on Jan. 5, 2018.
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