President Obama Riles Aviation Advocates

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The National Air Transportation Association (NATA), the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), AOPA and other groups responded with "deep concern" to proposed tax changes suggested by President Obama during a press conference, Wednesday. Obama said, "The tax cuts I'm proposing we get rid of are tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, tax breaks for oil companies and hedge fund managers and corporate jet owners." NATA president and CEO James Coyne responded on behalf of his members saying he "is appalled by President Barack Obama's attacks on general aviation." Other leaders of aviation advocacy groups followed suit.

AOPA responded to the president's remarks, saying it was "very disappointed" and that the president's approach "assailed businesses and individuals who use aircraft to support their business." GAMA, along with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, announced it had sent a joint letter to the president saying, "This kind of criticism has also led to the layoff of over 20,000 IAM members." Speaking on the issue, Shawn Vick, executive vice president of Hawker Beechcraft Acquisition Co., told Bloomberg News that if Obama's proposal includes lengthening depreciation on jet purchases, it "could weaken our industry when we're at a point where we're just starting to see improvement." Adding to public interest in the issue, The Wall Street Journal recently reported that "the high percentage of trips to vacation destinations in a few cases suggests some companies' jets are frequently used by executives to make personal trips." According to the Journal, "Dozens of jets operated by publicly traded corporations made 30% or more of their trips to or from resort destinations, sometimes more than 50%." The Journal has no sure way of knowing which flights are business-related. The issue of jet use and taxation has become a hot button in political debates regarding U.S. budgetary concerns.

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