When the Washington State legislative session ended March 11, pilots thought they could breathe a sigh of relief. That’s because legislators did not take any action on a proposed aircraft excise tax that represented a potential 1,400% increase — or more — over previous aircraft registration fees. But that relief was short-lived as lawmakers were called back for a special session because of unfinished business.
As of March 26, lawmakers still hadn’t taken action on House Bill 3176/Senate Bill 6873, which would levy an annual excise tax of 0.5% based on the value of an aircraft if it was manufactured after Dec. 31, 1970. Those manufactured before that date will be assessed an annual fee, estimated at roughly twice the current fee.
Realizing the scope of the fight on their hands, pilot groups in the Evergreen State formed a coalition that spearheaded a lobbying campaign. Members of the Washington Aviation Coalition sent e-mail reminders to pilots urging them to express their opposition to the tax to their elected officials by pointing out the detrimental economic impact on an already struggling industry. One email noted: “This bill creates unintended consequences for small aviation business owners who support Washington’s aircraft fleet. These companies will lose jobs that support our state’s cherished aviation heritage.”
The coalition is made up of the Washington Pilots Association, the San Juan Pilots Association, the Washington Aviation Association, Northwest War Bird Chapters, the Washington Search and Rescue Association, Washington Airport Management Association, the Pacific Northwest Business Aviation Association, Washington Seaplane Association, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Northwest Recreational Flying Association and the National Business Aviation Association.
Hundreds of individual pilots have joined the fight, contacting their elected representatives, pointing out that aviation in the state is already heavily taxed, so adding even more expense may make some people quit flying altogether.
“We can win this battle,” said John Dobson, president of the Washington Pilots Association. “Keep up the pressure…we are so close.”
For more information: WPAFlys.org.