By Matt Thurber
When President Obama criticized tax breaks for owners of corporate jets during the first debate with contender Mitt Romney on October 3, the reaction from the business aviation community was swift. Obama was referring to the allowable accelerated depreciation for capital goods, which ironically is part of a bill that he signed in 2010, HR 4853, the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance and Job Creation Act. What the President said during the debate was: “Why wouldn’t we eliminate tax breaks for corporate jets? My attitude is if you’ve got a corporate jet, you can probably afford to pay full freight, not get a special break for it.”
While the debate was still under way, NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen issued a statement: “At a time when both candidates claim to be putting job creation at the top of their agenda, it’s unfortunate that the President tonight denigrated the business aviation industry, which is responsible for 1.2 million American jobs and $150 billion in economic impact.”
This was followed the next day by a letter in which Bolen wrote: “I’m writing to convey my frustration at your disparaging remarks about our industry during the debate. Your comments seemed to illustrate a complete lack of understanding about the importance of business aviation in the U.S. and appear to be at odds with your stated interest in promoting job growth, stimulating exports, driving economic recovery and restoring America to its first-place position in manufacturing.” In conclusion, Bolen wrote, “Please consider promoting, rather than disparaging, business aviation–it’s a great American industry.”
Former Cessna chairman, CEO and president Jack Pelton brought the issue to a local level bypenning a letterto Wichita mayor Carl Brewer (D), who attended the Democratic National Convention in September. Pelton asked the mayor to educate others in his party about the positive effect that the business jet industry has on jobs and the economy in the U.S. In response, Brewer pledged to “continue to defend the aviation industry and will make every effort to take our message to our President.”
Tom Hendricks, the new president of NATA, took a more nuanced view in a blog post about the President’s remarks. “There are more debates to come,” he wrote, “and the candidates will continue to talk about their plans to fix our economy. But when the dust settles after the November elections and the new Congress begins in January 2013, we will be ready to work with whoever is in the Oval Office and Congress to build a strongeeconomy and strengthen the general aviation industry.”–M.T.