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Aeronautics Program Funding



If anybody wants to fight for the return of Aeronautics Program funding, here are some rather important facts.  And, separate the term "Aeronautics Division" from the term "Aeronautics Program."  Few in the State Legislature, the Governor's Administration, or Caltrans for that matter, will fight for the Division (i.e. the staff). The Program is what you want to fight for because that is the money and all that the money does for you at the local level. 
 
Aeronautics Program funding comes ONLY from the EXCISE TAX on aviation fuels : 18cents/gallon on aviation 100 Low Lead gasoline and 2 cents/gallon for Jet A fuel.  This is NOT SALES TAX!  This is not local property tax or personal or business income taxes.  These excise tax revenues are the only source of Aeronautics Program funding - NO ANNUAL APPROPRIATION FROM THE LEGISLATURE!!!!!!!.
 
Attached here is the latest Aeronautics Program "Fact Sheet."  It shows the historic amount of excise tax funding the Program has received over the past several years - $7 million+ per year.  When money is taken from the Program's account ($10.8 million total over two consecutive years when I was Division Chief back on 2003 and 2004, I believe it was) you have no means of "getting well", of getting the re-directed monies returned to the Aeronautics Program.  You can't go the the Legislature the following year(s) and ask to have the decremented funds replaced.  Further, the money taken from the Aeronautics Program is not "loaned" to the State's General Fund, to be repaid at some later date - like many other "Special Funds" and protected accounts.  It is gone forever! The $4 million recently taken from the Aeronautics Program is gone forever.  And the "suspension" of further grant activities, even if revenues come to the Aeronautics Program (FYI: Excise Tax revenues dribble in to the Aeronautics Program over the course of the year; no single money drop at the beginning of the budget year) appears to be curtailed indefinitely.  I read where the State General Fund deficit for the next fiscal year STARTS at $10 billion.  Suspension of grants over the rest of the current budget year, and possibly  the next budget year, mean, on the surface, no grant to local City and County owned and operated General Aviation airports for some time to come.  Can you quietly live with that?   Or, do you want to make some noise?  The Regional Council of Rural Counties (29 of California's 58 counties the last time I counted), the League of California Cities, the California State Association of Counties, the city and
county Public Works Directors association (as local transportation point persons) should all be informed and moved to action - by you airport management folks. 
 
The uses of the Aeronautics Program funds are, first, to operate the Aeronautics Division (nearly $4 million/year).  Then, second, to fund the ANNUAL CREDIT to the 149 eligible General Aviation airports ($1.49 million/year).  This is a "credit", sort of an entitlement, not a "grant." You can accumulate up to five years of the credit in  the Aeronautics Program "holding tank."  This Annual Credit is most commonly used for an airport liability insurance premium; to use as the local match for an FAA AIP project; to offset the salary of the person charged locally with airport management; or to buy airport-related equipment and do maintenance, etc.  Third in the funding priorities list is Aeronautics's minor participation in sharing the FAA AIP local match requirement. It used to be "5%" for both the 90% and 95% AIP grants, reduced a couple of years ago to "$2.5%" so as to spread the State monies around further across more AIP projects.  In any case (whether 90 or 95% AIP grants, or % or 2.5% State local match participation), that "pot" is about $2 million +/- per year.  The last priority use of Aeronautics Program funds is for the State's Acquisition & Development (A&D) 90% grants.  You can see that the Aeronautics Program nearly runs out of money by the time the top three priorities are funded.
 
Any diversion of Aeronautics Program funds, or "re-direction" as it has been called by the Department of Finance, has devastating immediate, as well as long-term effect on leveraging federal FAA AIP grants for transportation facility maintenance and improvements for years to come, especially in timely meeting of safety needs. 
 
The Aeronautics Division may, or may not offer more current, updated numbers for those I cite above. 
 
R. Austin Wiswell
Ph: 530/672-2390

AviationFactSheetSept2009B.pdf


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