Two bills relating to aviation passed the Senate floor rather easily Tuesday. One measure concerned the state’s air transportation system, while the other focused on the state’s flourishing aerospace industry.
Senators overwhelmingly approved House Bill 2082, the Airport Modernization Bill, by a 43-0 vote. The bill now heads to conference committee where legislators will decide how much the program will be funded next fiscal year.
If fully funded, HB 2082 would provide a one-time, $40 million appropriation to the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission that would be used to fund the Airport Modernization Program. Through the program, Oklahoma’s 49 regional business airports will be eligible for grants for specific projects, including the construction or renovation of terminals and hangars primarily used for general aviation. Funding may also cover the costs associated with providing adequate navigational aids that will allow aircraft to land safely, even in bad weather.
Also on Tuesday, HB 2085 won Senate approval by a vote of 44-2. Often referred to as the Engineer Work Force Bill, HB 2085 provides tax credits of up to 30 percent each year for five years to Oklahoma aerospace companies that hire engineering graduates, as well as tax credits of no more than $5,000 per year for five years for engineering graduates who choose to work for Oklahoma aerospace companies.
One provision that was recently removed from the bill would have provided employment incentive payments, or tuition rebates, to engineering graduates who stay in Oklahoma and work in aerospace for five years. Industry officials have indicated that they are still in discussions with legislators to restore that particular provision.
Oklahoma’s aviation and aerospace industry is the state’s largest employer, providing nearly 150,000 jobs across the state and producing an annual economic output of more than $12 billion. According to the most recent studies, one in 10 Oklahomans derives his or her income from aviation. The average salary for an aerospace worker in Oklahoma is more than $54,000, compared to an average of about $29,000 for all Oklahoman workers