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Jay Carney: Aviation Job Cuts Just 'Difficult Choices'
Feb 20, 2013

By Burgess Everett

White House press secretary Jay Carney didn’t ooze sympathy Wednesday for the thousands of plane builders who could lose their jobs if the Obama administration succeeds in its call to eliminate a tax break for corporate and private jet owners.

“I would say that making choices about budgets and deficit reduction always involves difficult choices,” Carney told a reporter who asked what he would say to “tens of thousands” of middle-class aviation workers whose jobs could be affected in states like Kansas, Washington and Oklahoma.

Carney then went back to the administration’s usual argument on how to avert the looming sequester — that the debate is a choice between “special” tax breaks versus national defense, Head Start for children and jobs for teachers.

“When it’s a choice between laying teachers off or affecting our national security or in the broader scheme, reforming our tax code in a way that eliminates these special interest tax breaks or subsidies, that is a better option,” Carney said. “The question here is: What choices do we make? Do we choose to protect narrow special interest loopholes?” 

Later, in a televised interview with Wichita’s KAKE, Obama offered a more diplomatic defense of his administration’s push to end a corporate tax benefit for jet owners, saying the move isn’t about cutting aviation jobs, and he hopes to make things easier for aviation companies, but not corporate jet owners.

“We want to give more tax breaks to all the aviation companies in Kansas, so that they are hiring here and producing here. 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,” he said. 

“The reason people buy corporate jets is because it's extremely convenient and they can afford it. And they don't need an extra tax break, especially at a time when we're trying to reduce the deficit. Something's got to give,” he added. 

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) raised concerns earlier this month that more than 1 million people in the general aviation industry could be affected by touching the 1986-era tax exemption for personal and corporate jets. The reporter at Wednesday’s briefing said thousands of layoffs have already occurred in Kansas “since the president started mentioning this.”

Association CEO Pete Bunce said later that people in his industry “are not special interests” and demanded a mea culpa from Carney.

“These statements are totally outrageous and Mr. Carney should apologize,” Bunce said. “It’s completely offensive to refer to hardworking Americans as ‘difficult choices.’ This administration should stop the sound bites and political games and focus on fixing our economy.”

The infamous loophole, a frequent target of Obama, stole the show at the daily press briefing. Carney repeatedly pitted the billions of dollars in automatic spending cuts looming on March 1 against “corporate jet owners,” along with the oil and gas industry.

One reality, though: Eliminating the tax benefit would pay for a fraction of the billions in domestic spending cuts that sequestration threatens to impose March 1.

The tax break allows general aviation aircraft to be depreciated over five years rather than seven for commercial planes. Eliminating that provision has been estimated to generate about $300 million a year, or $3 billion over 10 years. The sequester will deliver about $43 billion in domestic cuts this year alone should it go into effect.

“Can we acknowledge here that closing the loophole for corporate jet owners … is not going to solve your sequester problem?” another reporter asked Wednesday.

“We can acknowledge it, but implicit in your suggestion is that we ever said that it would,” Carney responded. “Can you tell me a single tax loophole … that Republicans have identified that they’re willing to close that would reduce the deficit?”

However, the press secretary also said Obama supports legislation from Senate Democrats that would avert the sequester, mostly through raising taxes on the rich but also ending some farm subsidies and cutting some defense spending.

The Senate bill doesn’t include anything to eliminate the break for jets. So while Carney continued to hammer private jet owners, he also was endorsing a bill that would do nothing to close that loophole.

“There’s legislation that has been submitted that would avert the sequester implementation by House and Senate Democrats. The president supports that legislation,” Carney said.





No Plane No Gain: Sampling of 2010 Coverage

Since the launch of the No Plane No Gain advocacy campaign, a concerted effort has been made to deliver the message about the importance of business aviation through national and local news outlets. This sampling of national and local television coverage in 2010, highlights the campaign's effectiveness in communicating the industry's importance.

NBAA's Bolen on Fox Business Network

Click here to see Ed Bolen, President and CEO of NBAA, in an interview on Fox Business Network

NBAA's Bolen on DC's Newschannel 8

In an interview with Newschannel 8, Bolen explains that "... business aviation is prudent, cost-effective, and oftentimes, the only way to get where you're going."





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