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Cessna CEO asks Wichita mayor to defend business jet market

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, at 11:18 p.m.
  • Updated Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, at 11:29 p.m.

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Minutes after President Obama said in last week’s presidential debate that corporate jet owners should pay more taxes, former Cessna CEO Jack Pelton was e-mailing Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer – asking for his help.

Pelton asked Brewer, a Democrat, to tell other Democratic Party members about the positive impact that the business jet market has on jobs and the economy.

The industry employs thousands of people in Wichita and around the country.

Brewer, who attended the Democratic convention last month in North Carolina, responded to Pelton in an e-mail on Saturday, saying that he shares Pelton’s concerns.

In 2009 and 2010, he sent letters to Obama, urging him to pay attention to the “economic value of this critical industry,” Brewer told Pelton in the e-mail.

“Since the issuance of those letters, my position has remained the same,”

The issue arose because during his debate with Republican nominee Mitt Romney, Obama used the accelerated depreciation that owners of business jets can use when paying taxes as an example of a tax break that should be eliminated.

Pelton’s e-mail noted that it took Obama not more than 30 minutes to comment on business jets.

“Why wouldn’t we eliminate tax breaks for corporate jets?” Obama asked before 58 million viewers who watched the debate. “My attitude is, if you got a corporate jet, you can probably afford to pay full freight, not get a special break for it.”

While Obama made specific mention of business jet buyers’ ability to claim the break as long as the jet is bought for business purposes, business owners can also take accelerated depreciation on machinery and equipment. Unless extended by Congress, the break will expire at the end of 2012.

In his e-mail Pelton said Obama’s statement was ill informed regarding the use of business jets and more importantly, it’s “damning to the great people who work on the production lines here in Wichita."

The business climate for the industry continues to be at an “all-time low,” Pelton said, who called Obama’s remarks infuriating because they ignore the impact that the industry has on the economy.

Brewer noted that last year he joined other state and community leaders in welcoming U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to Wichita, where he spoke at Cessna.

“Our message was clear: Aviation is vital to the nation’s economy and to the President’s goal of doubling exports,” Brewer said.

“Going forward, I will continue to defend the aviation industry,” Brewer wrote, “and will make every effort to take our message to our President.”

Contact Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com.

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