Georgia Republicans wasted no time in punishing Delta following the airline's fallout with the National Rifle Association and advocates for lax gun restrictions. On Thursday, the state's lawmakers killed a tax exemption that would have saved Delta millions of dollars each year. Georgia lawmakers supporting the NRA got revenge on Delta Air Lines after the airline announced last week that it would no longer offering discount fares to NRA members.
To be clear, Delta's breakup with the NRA simply means that NRA members will fly like any other non-NRA member. The company does not have a stance on gun control policy, such as an assault weapons ban or expanded background checks. Still, the decision did not sit well with the Georgia GOP. Lawmakers were preparing to pass a sweeping tax bill that would have included a tax break on jet fuel and that perk would have saved Delta an estimated $38 million a year. Since Georgia legislature is predominantly controlled by the Republican Party, conservative lawmakers were able to delete the jet fuel exemption and pass the tax bill without a hitch.
This development will certainly be a victory for pro-gun lobbyists and politicians backed by the NRA. Prior to voting on the bill, Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle tweeted:
I will kill any tax legislation that benefits @Delta unless the company changes its position and fully reinstates its relationship with @NRA. Corporations cannot attack conservatives and expect us not to fight back.
Delta, an Atlanta-based company, employs 33,000 people in Georgia. While the company has not released a statement in response to the lost tax incentive, some people are already criticizing Georgia GOP for what seemed like a petty blow.
The feud with Delta comes in the wake of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. A gunman opened fire with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, killing 17 people and leaving others injured. Subsequently, Parkland survivors began leading the movement for sensible gun laws — a movement that had gun control advocates urging Delta to cut its partnership with the NRA.
In response, Delta informed the public it would stop offering the privilege of cheaper flights to NRA members. The company's statement reads:
Delta is reaching out to the National Rifle Association to let it know we will be ending its contract for discounted rates through our group travel program. We will be requesting that the NRA remove our information from its website.
The bill that strips away Delta's tax break is now on the desk of Gov. Nathan Deal. The Republican will most likely sign it, as he has already indicated that while the Delta controversy was an "unbecoming squabble," he would sign the tax measure in which ever way it came to him.
The tax bill would apply broad cuts to Georgia's state income tax levels, which is the main reason why Deal supports the measure, jet fuel incentive included or not. “The real story is the unprecedented $5 billion tax cuts for Georgians,” Deal said at a press conference on Wednesday. “The real story is what it has always been: what is in the best interests of our state.”
In support of Delta, various U.S. lawmakers have invited the airline company to move its hub to their state. New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul tweeted: "@Delta, as one of your most frequent flyers, know that the NY LG admires your principled stance. Let’s continue our great relationship. NY is open for business & [loves] Delta – move HQ to where you’re appreciated?"
Delta is one of numerous corporations that have ended special treatment for the NRA. The list of companies that have severed ties with the NRA include United Airlines, Best Western, and several major car rental companies.