Senate passes Honeyford bill to codify aviation revitalization loan program

Floor speech

Today, the Senate once again voted to formally create a program that will help smaller, regional airports operate in the black. The measure 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 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,” said Honeyford. “Existing funding sources are often restricted to purely aviation-related projects, but in order to attract new business, smaller airports need to make other 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.

“It’s important that we require the Department of Transportation formally create and then support the Community Aviation Revitalization Board and its mission.”

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.

“The governor had some concerns about the makeup of the board, and vetoed its creation,” Honeyford explained. “This bill addresses those concerns, as well as those of the state treasurer’s office, and I am pleased that we now also have the full support of DOT.”

If Substitute Senate Bill 5011 is adopted, 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.

SSB 5011 now goes to the House of Representatives for its consideration.