House votes unanimously to approve Honeyford aviation revitalization loan bill

Today, the House of Representatives voted unanimously to formally create a program that will help smaller, regional airports operate in the black. Senate Bill 5031, offered by Sunnyside Sen. Jim Honeyford, would establish the Community Aviation Revitalization Board to provide loans to small airports – many of which need better access to financing in order to invest in critical infrastructure projects.

“This bill has made it out of the Senate with broad support several times before,” said Honeyford. “I’m so glad to see it clear that hurdle in the House and look forward to seeing it cross the finish line and become law this year.

“This loan program gives some of our smaller airports the ability to make the updates they need to attract new business and increase their financial integrity, which will be more important than ever in a post-pandemic recovery.”

Honeyford points out that existing funding sources are often restricted to purely aviation-related projects, but to attract new business, smaller airports need to make other non-aviation-related improvements.

“This loan program provides a source of financing that must be paid back, but will fill the gap and enable these airports to modernize and operate in a profitable manner,” Honeyford added.

In 2018, the Senate passed a similar bill, which failed to move in the House. Language in the 2018 capital budget, however, created the new aviation-loan program and provided a $5 million appropriation to be deposited into a new revolving-loan account.

SHB 1656, which would have permanently codified the community aviation revitalization loan program, was passed later in the 2018 legislative session, but was vetoed by Governor Inslee. The 2020 capital budget extended the program through June 2021. Honeyford took another run at getting the program codified during the 2020 session with Senate Bill 5011. The House failed to advance the measure in the last days of that session.

“It’s been a long journey getting here, but the unanimous vote in both the House and Senate this year is a testament to the value of this program,” said Honeyford. “Hopefully, Governor Inslee will see that value as well.”

Under SB 5031, the Community Aviation Revitalization Board would supplement the DOT program and make direct loans to certain airports for improvements that primarily support general-aviation activities. Eligible airports must be available for public use and have less than 75,000 annual commercial air service passenger enplanements as published by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The bill now goes to the governor for his consideration.