Kinder signs bill to extend jet fuel sales tax

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The new law will increase the amount of money to defray costs of traffic control towers.

The sales tax on fuel for commercial and private jets will continue for another five years in Missouri, keeping alive a pool of funds that are increasingly important for making improvements at the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport.

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, acting as governor while Matt Blunt is out of the state, was at the local airport Monday to sign the bill that will extend the sales tax through 2013. The tax generates roughly $4 million each year for improvements to rural airports. It was set to expire in 2008.

Before signing the bill, Kinder told a small group that included government leaders, economic development officials and airport manager Bruce Loy that everyone "realizes the importance of the airport to the region's economy."

The revenue on the roughly 3 percent sales tax on jet fuel will continue to be transferred into the State Aviation Trust Fund. Revenue from the jet fuel taxes make up over 90 percent of the money in the trust fund.

The trust fund money also sets aside money to help defray costs of operating traffic control towers. The new law also increases the amount that can be used for control towers from $125,000 to $167,000.

That will mean the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport can receive another $42,000 over the $125,000 it already gets each year to help pay the costs of operating the control towers, Loy said. Currently, the tower costs $210,000 to operate, an amount that covers the salaries of the operators and controllers as well as maintaining the equipment and building, Loy said.

But Loy said the Cape Girardeau airport has never used the trust fund money for airport improvement projects, primarily because in the past it has relied on federal funding. But decreasing ridership has caused the local airport to be ineligible for federal funds, he said.

Ridership at the airport in 2004 was at 6,500, Loy said, well below the 10,000 needed to get up to $1 million a year in Federal Aviation Administration funding. Loy said it doesn't look like the airport will handle 10,000 riders this year either.

That means the state money is increasingly attractive for making improvements.

Loy has several projects in mind, including security fencing, rehabilitating aging ramps and pavement repairs.

"It doesn't mean we have to stop doing projects," he said. "I'll be looking at the state more than I have in the past."

Joe Pestka, the state's administrator of aviation, said collections on the tax started in 1999. He said the jet fuel sales tax has paid for projects like the construction of parallel taxiway at airports in West Plains and Monett and a runway extension in Bolivar.

The bill was introduced by State Sen. Jason Crowell at the request of the city of Cape Girardeau. State Rep. Nathan Cooper introduced the bill in the House.

smoyers@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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