Wichita — President Barack Obama’s proposal to eliminate tax breaks for corporate aircraft isn’t flying so well in a city that calls itself the air capital of the world.
Obama told reporters last week he backs killing the incentive for corporations to buy their own aircraft as part of efforts to cut the deficit.
“Before we ask our seniors to pay more for health care, before we cut our children’s education, before we sacrifice our commitment to the research and innovation that will create more jobs in the economy, I think it’s only fair to ask an oil company or a corporate jet owner that has done so well to give up that tax break that no other business enjoys,” Obama said.
Industry officials bristled at the prospect.
“It’s one of the few exporting industries that we have, with high-value, high-paying jobs,” said Shawn Vick, executive vice president at Hawker Beechcraft, told The Wichita Eagle. “If the focus is on reining in spending in Washington, which programs are not adding value? Why are we electing to damage the manufacturing infrastructure? It just doesn’t make sense.”
The industry produces $150 billion economic impact and employs 1.2 million people, according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.
“That’s huge,” said Danielle Boudreau, director of public relations for Bombardier Business Aircraft. “This is critical stimulus, and more and more is being exported internationally out of the U.S.”
A joint letter of protest was sent to Obama from Peter Bunce, president and CEO of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, and Tom Buffenbarger, international president of the Machinists union.
In it, they say they are perplexed at Obama’s proposal in light of a March speech by Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood praising the industry for helping the administration meet its goal of doubling exports within five years.
“While such talk may appear to some as good politics, the reality is that it hurts one of the leading manufacturing and exporting industries in the United States,” Bunce and Buffenbarger wrote.