Democracy in America, 2016. Our elected officials continue to serve special interests only, while ignoring the issues and growing inequalities that are destroying the not-too-distant future.
Aviation is a major player in this game. Those who are wealthy enough to own an airplane are golden: we coddle them, hoping they may give us a handout. Those with less wealth? Well, they still pay taxes to fix their beater car so they can buy gas and remain just mobile enough to not get fired from one of their two minimum wage part-time jobs.
In this example, legislation was passed in 2012 on the claim that it would ‘level the playing field’ for aircraft maintenance facilities in Idaho, matching the sales tax exemptions on aircraft parts then existing in 23 other states. The state legislature accepted the additional claim that jobs would be created, but demanded no proof that this was even true. Obviously, since airplane repairs and upgrades will happen with or without passage of the legislation, the simple fact is any new Idaho jobs would require elimination of the same jobs in other states. Oh, and the tax exemption is only for out-of-state aircraft; thus, when the legislation passed, Idaho owners became enticed to fly to another state for their repairs.
The whole scheme is absurd. And these tax exemptions do not appear from a vacuum. They are a result of focused lobbying activities, which include donating to reelection funds as a matter of routine. If you are an aviation lobbyist like NBAA.org, you will not only produce documents like the May 2003 report on aviation taxes state-by-state, but you will also advocate for further tax exemptions to attract new memberships.
It seems peculiar that FAA has preempted local management of aviation noise and air pollution impacts, yet FAA looks the other way, allowing local/state regulations that amount to aviation job predation. Perhaps it is time for FAA to turn this ship around, and focus on supporting a NATIONAL Airspace System. How? In general, impacts and environmental matters should be LOCALLY controlled, while safety and general economic policies should be FEDERALLY controlled. Here’s two ideas:
- Impose regulations that ensure consistency across all states – removing local/state barriers, to achieve the widest distribution of aviation jobs.
- Re-empower local officials – as well as the right of local citizens to vote on aviation noise matters – so as to allow local emplacement of tailored environmental protections consistent with aviation safety.
An aviation regulator, serving the People and not just the industry, would be very different from today’s FAA. How about we ‘transform’ FAA into that new and better regulator?