Aviation Industry Blasts Obama Comments

Proposal to eliminate tax breaks for corporate aircraft at issue


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June 30--Some in the general aviation industry are objecting to President Obama's proposal to eliminate tax breaks for corporate aircraft.

At a Wednesday news conference, Obama said that he backs removing tax incentives encouraging the purchase of corporate jets as part of the solution 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."

That didn't sit well with general aviation manufacturers.

"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. "If the focus is on reigning 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."

Danielle Boudreau, director of public relations for Bombardier Business Aircraft, emphasized the industry's positive impact.

The industry produces $150 billion economic impact and employs 1.2 million people, according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.

"That's huge," Boudreau said. "This is critical stimulus and more and more is being exported internationally out of the U.S."

Peter Bunce, president and CEO of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, and Tom Buffenbarger, international president of the Machinists union, sent Obama a joint letter in protest.

In the letter, they described themselves as perplexed at the proposal, especially in light of a speech by Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood during a March visit to Wichita praising the industry for helping the administration meet its goal to double exports within five years.

They said they worried that Obama's remarks were similar to ones he made in 2008 that they said hurt the industry.

"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."

Reach Dan Voorhis at 316-268-6577 or dvoorhis@wichitaeagle.com.

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