Of corporate jets & corporate welfare: The Gaylord Hotel in Aurora

David K. Williams, Jr.

I need a little help understanding something. This, as those of you that know me personally can attest, is not unusual. Let me lay it out:

  1. President Barack Obama decries tax breaks on corporate jets because companies that can afford corporate jets need to pay MORE taxes and not get tax breaks.
  2. The City of Aurora is going to give Gaylord Hotels hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks because they need to pay FEWER taxes.
  3. Gaylord Hotels owns a corporate jet.

In fact, Gaylord Hotels CEO Colin V. Reed, just two years ago, was criticized by a major shareholder “for excessive corporate waste” involving use of the jet.

According to the New York Times, Texas billionaire and 15% owner of Gaylord Hotels, Robert Rowling, wrote a letter to all Gaylord shareholders complaining of

Mr. Reed’s use of the company’s $15 million Gulfsteam G150 private jet, which has been used 36 times to fly back and forth between Florida and Mississippi over the last two years, according to flight logs provided by the company.

(See “2 Tycoons in a Tiff Over Flights on a Corporate Jet.”)

This begs the question of why anyone would think giving millions of public dollars to a company when its private investors complain of excessive corporate waste is a good idea, but I shall leave that for another time.

I need some help on the larger policy question: If giving tax breaks to Gaylord for its corporate jet is bad government policy, how is handing Gaylord $300 million in tax breaks good government policy?

I do not have a Ph.D. in anything (not even an honorary one, and even Mike Tyson has one of those), so I am clearly not smart or educated enough to understand how the government letting a company keep money is bad but the government giving them money is good.

I know this is crazy talk, but how about this?

  • Have one set of rules for all companies. None of them get tax breaks that the rest do not also get. None of them get any subsidy that all the rest do not get.

Of course, this would stop politicians from being able to give out favors to certain corporations and industries at the expense of others.

Perhaps I understand it after all.