By Kerry Lynch
To White House Press Secretary Jay Carney there’s jobs worth saving and jobs that are “difficult choices.” That was the message he gave last week when pressed by reporters about the potential fallout of the White House’s proposal to lengthen business jet depreciation schedules from five to seven years to match that of airliners.
Although President Barack Obama later clarified that stance.
During a Feb. 20 briefing with Carney, a reporter asked about concerns that changes in the tax scheme could cost jobs and “there have been thousands of layoffs in Kansas since the president started mentioning this in the corporate aviation area.” The reporter asked Carney, “What would you say to them?”
Carney responded that “Making budgets and choices about deficit reduction always involves difficult choices.”
That response came after Carney had told reporters: “If you ask the American people if the choice is that those 70,000 kids get thrown off of Head Start, or those border security guards lose their jobs, or those teachers have their jobs threatened, on the one hand–or we ask corporate jet owners to give up their special tax loophole, what do you think they’ll say, overwhelmingly? This is an indefensible position.”
This immediately drew outrage from General Aviation Manufacturers Association President and CEO Pete Bunce, who says the White House owed manufacturers an apology.
President Barack Obama, however, later that same day, clarified the position, saying the administration support tax breaks to encourage general aviation manufacturing jobs and production, but “What we don’t want to do is give somebody who’s buying a corporate jet an extra tax break that ordinary people can’t get because they don’t need it. And that’s not the reason they buy a corporate jet,” Obama says.
But Obama too drew criticism for adding the reason operators buy corporate jets: “It’s extremely convenient and they can afford it.”
The National Business Aviation Association objected to Obama’s characterization of business aviation, saying it is a “promoting a caricature of business aviation that is at odds with reality.” NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen notes that 85% of companies using an aircraft are small or midsize, typically flying to communities with little or no airline service.
All of this discussion comes as the White House and Congress scramble to come up with solutions to push of the looming budget cuts that come with sequestration. The FAA and DOT released its proposals for cutting $600 million from its budget for the reminder of this year, including threats of general aviation tower closures, reduced certification services and mandatory across-the-board furloughs.