Wed, 07/23/2014 - 3:52pm

Even if you do not manage an airport, own or fly a plane or have not even visited an airport lately, if you use Oklahoma airport services in any way - even indirectly, you need to be aware of what Victor Bird, Director, Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission, shared at the OAOA Quarterly Meeting on July 16.   

The following is quoted, with Mr. Bird's permission, from an email he sent just prior to that July 16 meeting.

"It has to do with the $3 Million legislative raid on our revolving fund. It has happened. I think that someone was sitting and waiting until it became 12 midnight and one second, July 1, because on Tuesday morning, the $3 Million had been withdrawn as directed by the General Appropriations bill. The more I think about this and it’s quite a lot right now, the more furious I become. These funds are paid by aircraft owners and pilots (aircraft excise tax, aircraft registration fees and aviation fuel tax) with the implicit understanding that they will be held in trust and spent by the Aeronautics Commission to encourage, foster and assist in the development of aeronautics. In other words, promote aviation, primarily, the maintenance and development of publicly-owned airport infrastructure in the Oklahoma Airport System (OAS). OAC spends just under 70% of its funds, on average, for the maintenance and development of this infrastructure. You, and the rest of the airports in the OAS should be madder than a hornet as you are the direct beneficiaries of these funds. This $3 Million dollars was taken from you. We are the channeling conduit for these funds to the airports in the OAS. This trust, implicit in these funds being paid to the state, has been violated.

I will be at the board meeting of the Oklahoma Airport Operators (OAOA) on the 16th. I have visited with Chris about this. The OAOA and all airports need to sound the alarm and speak up—the British didn’t come but the Legislature did and it was very costly. My greatest fear is that the Legislature is going to be in a worse fix come next April and will be looking once again for “one-time” funding to balance the state budget. It did nothing to wrestle with the real problems facing it when it comes to crafting a balanced budget for the state. If this were to happen again, OAC would have no choice but to cut projects from our CIP. The explanation offered this time for taking this money from OAC and not one other non-appropriated agency: we knew if we went after banking, we’d take a beating from the Rainbolts and banks; if we went after energy, we’d get hammered by Larry Nichols, Harold Hamm, etc.; but we felt that we could take it all from you that we needed insofar as the non-appropriated, and you and your constituents would protest the least. I think that legislative leadership in their closed room may have underestimated our ire (yes, of course, I received no advance warning of this and I was advised that was by design, they didn’t want to allow me or you the opportunity to be heard). Things are going to have to change. OAC can’t make it easy for the Legislature. Deadlines in our grant agreements have to mean what they say and if a project isn’t ready to go, I’ve got to bring up another project. Yes, a good thing, I think, for OAC and you, OAC must get its funds invested in an efficient and timely manner. We will need your, OAOA’s, and all sponsors’ help in successfully doing this. We have a fight ahead, but I know that you and your peers will think it’s a fight worth waging."

"The Aerospace and Aviation Industry provides 144,000 direct and indirect jobs in Oklahoma and pays an average salary of $56,000."