The way Bob Miller sees it, before long, if you want to learn to fly, you will need to go to Pennsylvania or Ohio because there will be no flight schools left in New York.
"The state is holding all the cards on this," Miller told members of the Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday.
Within the past year, NYS Taxation and Finance has started auditing the owners of airplanes that are used as rentals for flight school students.
The state is demanding payment, Miller said, of taxes that were once exempt.
According to Miller, he can't legally charge students tax for their flight hours, but when private plane owners rent their planes to flight schools, the state is now demanding the owners pay sales tax on those fees.
As a result private plane owners who have been audited by the state will no longer rent their planes to flight schools.
More than two months ago, plane owners in Lancaster were audited and Miller was forced to close his school there. Now the state has gone after Batavia plane owners and he must shut down his aviation school here.
"It's not a new law," Miller said. "It's a new interpretation. The executive branch is holding all of the private airplane owners hostage to their interpretation of the code."
According to Miller, this hasn't been an issue in New York for 40 years, and certainly not during the 20 years he's been involved in aviation instruction.
"The state is so desperate for sales tax revenue they're going after everything," Miller said.
Currently, according to Miller, investors buy airplanes without sales tax if they are renting the planes to flight schools. If the planes are rented to private pilots who are not students, then the owners must pay sales tax; if the owners take the planes on a flight for their own private use, they must pay a portion of sales tax for the usage, but for 40 years, there's been no sales tax, he said, on student rentals through flight schools.
The state is requiring plane owners to pay for past unpaid sales taxes going up to five years back.
As a result, Miller said, the plane owners are just ceasing rental services to aviation schools in the state.
Miller has a lease for hangars and office space in the Genesee County Airport through 2015 and he's being asked to be let out of the lease because he's now out of business as a result of the state's actions.
Highway Superintendent Tim Hens recommended the Legislature require Miller to pay rent for 90 days, giving the county time to find a new tenant.
Hens said he isn't worried about filling the hangars -- there's a waiting list for hangar space, but he isn't sure the office space in the terminal will be filled, especially since it will be hard to find another filght school under the current circumstances.
The county will lose about
$2,400 a month $2,700 per year in revenue with the flight school closed, due to a decrease in aviation fuel sales.