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Wasilla Mayor Defends Business Aviation in Alaska

December 8, 2011

Wasilla, AK Mayor Verne RuprightAfter reading about his U.S. senator’s recent plea to President Obama to set aside a punitive user-fee proposal for business aviation, Wasilla, AK Mayor Verne Rupright was compelled to second the motion in a letter to one of the state’s newspapers.

“GA is essential to keeping Alaska communities connected to each other and the rest of the country,” wrote Rupright in a December 7 letter published in the Juneau Empire.

Read the full letter "Aviation fee harmful to Alaska communities, businesses."

Referring to an article that had run in the newspaper a week earlier, which focused on Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski’s Nov. 28 letter calling on the president to oppose a per-flight user fee Obama introduced earlier this year, Mayor Rupright pointed out “the huge potential harm of a new user fee tax on businesses and groups that rely on GA, particularly for communities throughout Alaska.

“We should be doing everything we can to support our nation’s businesses and manufacturing industry during this tough economic time, not creating new, burdensome taxes on our nation’s smallest businesses and adding senseless new bureaucracy to our federal government,” he said.

In Alaska, general aviation, including business aviation, supports about 10,000 jobs and pumps about $400 million into the economy. Alaska has six times as many pilots per capita and 16 times as many aircraft per capita as the rest of the United States.

Mayor Rupright noted in his letter the necessity of business airplane use in oil and gas exploration, fishing, forestry and access to medical care for Alaska citizens and said, “…it defies reason as to why our leaders would consider a new tax that requires a huge new bureaucracy…when we are supposed to be reducing government spending.”

The visitor’s section of Wasilla’s web site encourages tourism, portraying a bush-type airplane on floats as the first way there. The city of 7,028 people has a well-used public airport about 15 minutes from the center of town, and no fewer than 71 smaller strips regularly used by owners or bush pilots supplying outlying residents with essentials. In Alaska, where 82 percent of communities have no road access, airplanes are used like pickup trucks and many young Alaskans learn to fly before they learn to drive.

The mayor’s letter to the Juneau Empire comes on the heels of was a letter to President Barack Obama he signed with a group of 76 other mayors in September that likewise opposed the user fee proposal.