AOPA submitted testimony in favor of a New Jersey bill that would give small general aviation airports the flexibility to roll over state grants into the next fiscal year.
AOPA testified that the bill would benefit smaller airports and keep them competitive with larger ones in the state. “This modification will bring much needed stability for the smaller public-use airports that tend to lack staff to efficiently process the multitude of tasks required for each eligible project. As such, passage of A4092 will assuage fears about losing grants at airports unable to process them with the same expedience as larger airports,” AOPA wrote.
Unfortunately, many airports and aeronautical programs in New Jersey have been drastically underfunded in recent years. According to the FAA, since the 1980s, the number of public-use airports in the state has dwindled from a high of more than 60 to 41 today. Additionally, nearly 60 percent of these public-use airports are privately owned—meaning they aren’t eligible for FAA airport improvement program funding, and rely on the capital grant program to maintain operations.
As a member of the advisory board assisting the New Jersey Department of Transportation, AOPA advises on updates to the state airport system plan. Project consultants have determined that the capital grant program for airports averages less than $5 million in annual funding, while data show the state’s public-use airports need annual funding of $23 million just to keep pace with existing aviation infrastructure needs.
The passage of this new bill could turn the tide for smaller airports and bring much needed relief for airport infrastructure in the state. Daniel Benson, chair of the state Assembly Transportation Committee and sponsor of the bill, emphasized the importance of the bill for recruiting talent in the aviation industry. “Where do they usually get their start? It’s at these smaller airports,” he said. “So this is not just a local or regional economic concern. This is about creating the right pipeline for something that is essential for our economic strength here in New Jersey.”