For the last several years there has been a flurry of activity at the state level in the form of legislation and other initiatives to support commercial space ventures: tax policies, liability indemnification, support for spaceport projects, and so on. This year, for example, the Florida legislature is working on legislation to support spaceport efforts at Cecil Field in Jacksonville, the Colorado legislature is taking up a liability indemnification bill, and the New Mexico legislature considered, but did not pass, an update to its own liability indemnification statute. California, though, has largely been on the sidelines while these and other states have worked on legislation to attract space businesses.
Stu Witt wants to change that. Witt runs the Mojave Air And Space Port, an FAA-licensed spaceport that is the home to a number of entrepreneurial space companies. Witt is concerned that other states that offer various legislative incentives will lure those companies out of the state, to the detriment of not only his spaceport but the state in general. “Virginia, Maryland, Texas, Florida, New Mexico, Colorado, and other states, with the support of their governors, legislators and business communities, are visiting aerospace businesses at the Mojave Air and Space Port in an effort to recruit them and their highly-skilled jobs to their states,” he said in a statement Monday.
The statement was tied to a press conference at the Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference in Palo Alto, California, where Witt discussed his concerns and his request for action. He’s asking the state legislature to consider several pieces of legislation that would make California more competitive versus those other states and thus more likely to attract and retain those space companies. Those pieces of legislation include liability indemnification, “zero-g, zero tax” incentives, tax credits, and making it easier for the spaceport to tap state infrastructure funding.
At the press conference, Witt said their latest effort, backed by companies at Mojave as well as SpaceX and other companies in the state, has the support within the legislature of Assemblyman Steve Knight and a few others, and their specific requests for legislation were submitted last week. They’ve tried to push for similar legislation three times in the past but failed to get it through, he said, although with term limits in the state legislature there is “a whole new cadre of characters” there that he hopes will be more receptive this time around.
Witt said that this legislation can help keep the companies that have revitalized his airport over the last decade in the state and allow them to fly from there. “The view from space, if I had a choice, I’d like to see the Golden Gate Bridge and the tip of Baja from my trip,” he said. “The view would sell itself if you have a place to fly from California, and I would like to see some of these companies have the opportunity to stay in California and operate.”