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Court Allows Burbank to Take Portion of Airport Tax

June 18, 1998|ANDREW BLANKSTEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BURBANK — In a move that could boost city coffers by $1.5 million annually, a state appellate court on Wednesday affirmed the city's right to take a percentage of Burbank Airport's parking tax revenues.

The three-judge appeals court panel, in a 13-page opinion, unanimously rejected a claim that the tax was preempted by clauses in the U.S. Constitution and violated state law, the Burbank City Charter and the 1977 joint powers agreement that set up the airport authority.

The panel upheld a ruling last July by Ventura County Superior Court Judge Barbara Lane that the tax did not exclusively affect air passengers but every person who uses city services, including police, road use and street maintenance.

"The bottom line is that Burbank's ability to tax people who use city services is an essential element of the city's sovereignty," said Peter Kirsch, an attorney representing Burbank in its long-running legal battle against the airport.

"The Airport Authority argued that it was exempt from the sorts of taxes everyone must pay," he added. "And in this decision the court reaffirmed that the authority is not above the law."

Airport officials expressed disappointment with the court ruling but said the most significant judgment in their long-running fight with Burbank had already been made.

"It's a decision we regret," said Airport Authority Spokesman Victor Gill. "But compared to the court victory that allowed us to buy land for a terminal, it's something we'll have to live with."

Burbank enacted the 10% tax in 1995 and airport administrators quickly challenged the levy, claiming it placed an unfair burden on air travelers.

The courts rejected that reasoning, although air travelers do pay more for long term parking at Burbank than at other airports in Southern California.

Long-term parking at Burbank for one day costs $10 compared to $5-$7 at Los Angeles International Airport, $7 at John Wayne Airport in Orange County and $5 at Ontario International Airport.

Burbank airport officials, citing public demand for lower prices, plan to reduce long-term parking rates to $8 per day on July 1.

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