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Airplane Tax Repealed in Pilot's Community of Mat-Su

MAT-SU—An airplane tax was unanimously repealed last night (Feb. 6) by the Assembly for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, where the highest concentration of private airstrips and public airports is found in the nation. Assemblymember Darcie Salmon sponsored the legislation in support of our local aircraft owners.

Salmon said residents in fly-in subdivisions such as Sky Ranch, in effect, are already paying a tax for their aircraft through their property taxes.

The Mat-Su Borough has 10 public airports and more than 200 private strips and airports.  More than 1,000 aircraft are owned here and more pilots live here per capita than the nation, according to a 2008 executive summary of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Regional Aviation System Plan.

The Borough airplane tax began in 1996 with a charge of $75 annually on a single engine, hot air balloon, or glider. Each year 1,250 tax registration bills are sent out. About 60 percent of owners pay the tax. Significant employee time is spent administering the program. The Borough has little recourse to collect on delinquencies. The loss in taxes to the Borough when repealed is estimated at $60,000.

Aviation groups support removing the tax including the Alaska Airmen’s Association, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots’ Association, and the Borough’s own Aviation Advisory Board, said Assemblymember Warren Keogh.

Assembly member Steve Colligan said the aviation industry has seen tough times due to increases in fuel costs and regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Aviation Administration. Colligan said owners of the small general aviation aircraft connect visitors and Alaskans to the outer reaches of our state. “We should be encouraging industry to come here.” He said aircraft bolsters tourism, maintenance and support operations and light-manufacturing. “I think it is clear with the appointment of new industry folks to the Aviation Advisory Board that we have set a new path by looking at the aviation industry as an economic opportunity for the Mat-Su to be developed rather than taxed and regulated.  Alaska's aviation industry has produced and tested innovative technologies, procedures and safety programs that have set the standard for our nation,” Colligan said.

Mayor Larry DeVilbiss remarked on his podcast, “There was a lot of feeling obviously on the part of the airplane owners that we pick on them and they receive not a single service from that tax and they were very happy to see it go away. It is a tax that’s very difficult to enforce, it’s kinda like taxing flies, they move around,” DeVilbiss said.

Assemblymembers are still identifying how to address past overdue aircraft taxes. The Borough also collects aircraft taxes for the City of Palmer.

For more information call Borough Public Affairs Director Patty Sullivan 745-9577 or psullivan@matsugov.us"> psullivan@matsugov.us

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