The showdown between Delta and Georgia Republicans began this week, after Delta announced it would stop offering discounted fares to National Rifle Association members. On Monday, Georgias Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle demanded the Atlanta-based airline — one of the states largest employers — either restore the benefit or watch Republican lawmakers strike down a $50 million sales-tax exemption on jet fuel, of which Delta would be the primary beneficiary.
The bill granting the jet-fuel tax exemption was easily approved in the House last week, and appeared to have wide support, as advocates say it would attract flights to Atlanta as opposed to other major airports, where jet-fuel taxes are charged. But in the days since Deltas announcement, other Georgia Republicans have rallied behind Cagle, and the Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday voted to remove the tax exemption from the larger tax-cut package.
But Cagle and other GOP lawmakers would not change their stance. Describing the feud as a “squabble” with a treasured family member, Cagle told “Fox & Friends” Wednesday the airline wouldn’t be targeted by Republicans if it treated all businesses “fairly.”
Video: Casey Cagle on fighting tax legislation for Delta Air Lines
Deal says yes to Georgia income tax cut, no to Delta, for now
Gov. Nathan Deal (R) said he would reluctantly support the measure because of the bills broader cuts to the states income tax rate, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Now, top blue-state politicians are encouraging Delta to relocate its hub from Atlanta.
@Delta, if Georgia politicians disagree with your stand against gun violence, we invite you to move your headquarters to New York, said New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) in a tweet Tuesday.
Delta officials tried to stem the GOP revolt in a statement that circulated around the statehouse this week saying the company is a supporter of the Second Amendment with a “neutral” stance on a gun debate that sharpened this month after the mass shooting at a Florida high school.
Cuomos remarks echoed those of the states lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul (D), who on Monday noted that New York is open for business and suggested that the airline should move its headquarters to where youre appreciated.
The lieutenant governor of Washington, Cyrus Habib (D), thanked Delta for cutting ties with the NRA, adding that his state would be a lovely place to do business. And Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) tweeted Hey @delta — Virginia is for lovers and airline hubs. Youre welcome here any time.
Amazon HQ2 could get caught up in a gun fight between Delta and the Georgia GOP
The widespread invitations to Delta by Democratic leaders make it seem as though the airline is the next Amazon HQ2, as several U.S. cities are also jockeying for Amazons business — offering giveaways like low taxes, land handouts and infrastructure improvements — after the company announced 20 finalist locations for its second headquarters. (Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
The Senate Rules Committee voted to delete the provision in a brief meeting Wednesday, capping a showdown between state GOP leader and Georgia’s largest private employer triggered after Delta ended discounted rates for National Rifle Association members.
Cuomo invites Delta to move its headquarters to New York
One of those cities happens to be Atlanta, in part because of its major airport. But experts now say Georgia Republicans may have jeopardized the citys bid with their threat to Delta.
This could absolutely give Amazon pause, Neeraj Arora, a marketing professor at the Wisconsin School of Business, told CNN Tech. The company has taken a stance on social issues in the past.
Video: Georgia Republican Governor Casey Cagle Threatens Delta Over NRA Split | Morning Joe | MSNBC
[ Georgia Republicans are crossing an ethically murky line by threatening Delta over its NRA boycott ]
The fight between Georgia Republicans and Delta Air Lines over the NRA could be a disaster for Atlantas bid for …
Delta joined United Airlines, Best Western, MetLife and at least a dozen other companies in cutting discounts and perks for NRA members amid the national gun-control debate after the deadly Valentines Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Advocates of the #BoycottNRA movement are now determined to convince tech giants such as Apple, Google, Roku and Amazon to stop streaming NRA-produced videos, though none have announced plans to do so.
Video: Fallout from Georgia lawmakers threatening Delta over NRA boycott
Delta faces backlash for cutting NRA ties after school shooting
Delta has not commented on the threat from Cagle, who says he is a lifelong member of the NRA and boasts that he has earned an A+ rating from the organization every year he has served in elected office. Cagle, who leads the Georgia state Senate and has served as the states lieutenant governor since 2007, could weave the issue into his campaign in Georgias upcoming gubernatorial race, in which he is considered the leading GOP contender to replace Deal.
Other states welcome Delta after Georgia tax dispute with NRA
The NRA has lashed out at the boycott movement, saying the companies that dropped the discounts were participating in a shameful display of political and civic cowardice. But the group also downplayed the importance of the companys actions, saying the loss of a discount will neither scare nor distract one single NRA member from our mission.
In NRA Fight, Delta Finds There Is No Neutral Ground
Whether Georgia Republicans leaders threats are empty ones will become clear when the full Senate votes on the tax exemption this week, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Its unusual for Georgias Republican leaders to oppose tax breaks for a major corporation — especially when that tax break could provide an economic boost, said Chuck Bullock, a political-science professor at the University of Georgia.
Some have questioned whether the government can punish a private company over its politics. The answer, according to ethics experts, is that they likely can, and that this sort of intimidation happens often in legislative bodies across the country.
Emory Law School Dean Robert Schapiro told The Washington Posts Amber Phillips that before any legal challenge could be raised, a clearer quid pro quo — you said this; therefore, the government is doing that to you — would have to be shown.
It also noted a past decision to withdraw its sponsorship of a theater that depicted the assassination of President Donald Trump as evidence it has also rejected left-leaning groups.
If the Georgia legislature said, Were going to impose a tax against people who speak out on gun control, or a tax against people who say they oppose the NRA, that would clearly be unconstitutional, Schapiro said.
“I was hoping there would be a compromise, which is why we suggested putting the milk back in the bottle and start over. I don’t know that that’s going to happen.”
Hypocrisy takes flight in Georgia
Still, a Democrat in the Georgia gubernatorial race says Cagle may have broken anti-corruption laws by threatening Delta. Stacey Evans on Wednesday asked Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr to investigate Cagles remarks and see whether the lieutenant governor broke bribery or extortion laws.
The vote capped a showdown between state GOP leader and Georgia’s largest private employer triggered after Delta ended discounted rates for National Rifle Association members.
[ A Georgia Republicans threat to Delta: Restore NRA benefits, or you wont get your tax break ]
Gov. Nathan Deal said he would reluctantly support a measure that stripped a lucrative tax break for Delta Air Lines but also includes broader cuts to the state’s income tax rate.
Gov. Deal vows to sign tax cut bill with or without Delta tax break
No matter what happens, experts say its unlikely Delta will respond to the invitations of Democratic state leaders by moving its hub.
Delta Will Never, Ever Leave Georgia. Heres Why
Its not like [Delta] can pack up and move somewhere else. This is their major hub, said Bullock, the University of Georgia professor.
As Bloomberg reported in an article ed, Delta isnt leaving Atlanta, so please stop talking about it:
Editorial: State Senates anti-business stance puts jobs at risk
Delta virtually owns the worlds busiest airport. Sure, the city is technically the landlord, but nothing of much import happens at Hartsfield without Deltas say-so. Part of this influence derives from location, seeing as its headquartered right next to the runways. Another source of power is the estimated $71 billion in annual economic impact that Georgia enjoys from Hartsfield, which claims to be the states largest employer. Moreover, less than two years ago, Delta signed a 20-year lease to stay in Atlanta, its home for the past 77 years.
Although Delta ended its alliance with the NRA, the company said its position on the gun-control debate remains neutral. Out of respect for our customers and employees on both sides, Delta has taken this action to refrain from entering this debate and focus on its business. Delta continues to support the 2nd Amendment, the airline said in a statement Saturday.
Georgia Republicans are crossing an ethically murky line by threatening Delta over its NRA boycott
She says she was groped on a Delta flight — then told to sit down and let it roll off your back
Regardless, a proposal supported by the governor to end the states sales tax on jet fuel — which would primarily benefit Delta — remains in jeopardy because of the controversy. The Republican-dominated Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday stripped the tax break from a broader tax bill.
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Gov. Nathan Deal promised Wednesday to sign a historic tax cut bill, even though state Senate leaders stripped his break on jet fuel because Delta Air Lines ended discounts for National Rife Association members.
But in making the announcement, the governor had a message for lawmakers who’d fanned the fiery Delta vs. NRA debate: Ditch the election-year “antics.”
Deal will sign tax bill that kills Delta break after NRA flap
“We were not elected to give the late-night talk show hosts fodder for their monologues or to act with the type of immaturity that has caused so many in our society to have a cynical view of politics,” Deal said.
The governor made his announcement at a Capitol press conference about four hours after the Senate Rules Committee removed the tax break on jet fuel — worth more than $40 million a year to Delta and millions more to other airlines — from House Bill 918.
With the jet fuel provisions gone, the bill, which would cut state income tax rates, should sail through the General Assembly on its way to his desk. The Senate is scheduled to vote on it Thursday.
The governor told reporters he would continue to fight to eliminate jet fuel taxes on airlines and cargo companies.
“Disagreement on key issues of our time should not prevent Georgians from keeping more of their hard-earned dollars,” Deal said.
The bid to punish the state’s largest private employer came as Georgia is pushing to recruit Amazon, which is considering Atlanta and 19 other finalists for its second headquarters. Deal conceded that the flap with the airline was not helpful, but he said he was confident that the tech giant would factor the state’s “good business climate” above all.
HB 918 would wipe out a potential state income tax windfall caused by federal tax changes that Congress approved in December and cut taxes on Georgians by an additional $516 million over the next half-decade.
It would cut the top state income tax rate — the rate most Georgians pay on a majority of their income — from 6 percent to 5.5 percent over two years.
Cagle stands to benefit economically from the threat as a member of the NRA, Evans said. She also said Cagles campaign for governor could also benefit.
In addition, the proposal would double the standard deduction for Georgians. For married couples filing joint returns, the deduction would go from $3,000 to $6,000.
Its Republican sponsors said the cuts were sorely needed because tax rates hadn’t changed in several decades.
But Deal was initially reluctant to reduce the income tax rates, saying he wanted to wait a year until the state is more certain of the impact of federal tax changes. He changed his mind after lawmakers — most of whom are either running for higher office or seeking re-election this year — began calling for tax cuts.
With party primaries only a few months away, Republican leaders were anxious to be able to brag on the campaign trail about cutting taxes, and last week, most voiced support for the tax break on jet fuel.
Georgias Republican lieutenant governor threatens Delta over cutting its NRA ties
But that changed over the weekend when Delta — which would be the biggest beneficiary of a tax break on jet fuel — announced it was ending discounted rates for NRA members after the mass shooting Feb. 14 at a Florida high school.
Within two days after Delta’s announcement, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, the Senate’s president and a leading Republican candidate for governor, vowed to strip the jet fuel provision unless the Atlanta-based airline restored ties with the NRA.
They Have a Choice to Make: Georgia Hits Back at Delta for Nixing NRA Member Discount
Delta’s move infuriated some conservatives and prompted each of the leading Republican candidates for governor to oppose the tax exemption for jet fuel.
Deal and other supporters of the tax break, which the House approved last week, sought to salvage a deal. The governor warned Senate Republicans this week that refusing to pass the measure could make it more difficult for Atlanta to compete with other cities with air hubs that don’t charge the tax.
But Cagle and other GOP lawmakers weren’t going to budge. Describing the feud as a “squabble” with a treasured family member, Cagle told “Fox & Friends” on Wednesday that the airline wouldn’t be targeted by Republicans if it treated all businesses “fairly.”
“But instead, they chose to single out the NRA and their membership — law-abiding gun owners. And I don’t think that’s right,” he said. “I have to govern on principles, and obviously, they have a choice to make.”
For Cagle and the other Republican gubernatorial candidates, taking the NRA’s side over Delta’s wasn’t a tough call.
While Delta is typically a leading political donor — it has given more than $20,000 to Cagle campaigns over the years — the NRA has been almost sacrosanct among many Republican voters.
Georgias lieutenant governor threatens to retaliate against Delta unless it reverses its decision on the NRA
Republican gubernatorial candidates in Georgia frequently post pictures and run ads showing themselves holding guns and wearing hunting gear, sometimes throwing in their dogs for good measure.
Online outrage after Georgia lawmaker threatens Delta state tax break over its NRA position
Full-throated support for the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms is mandatory on the campaign trail, and many in the Republican base see the NRA as protectors of that right.
Before Cagle announced his opposition, he was under pressure from conservatives to reject the Delta tax break. State Sen. Michael Williams, who worked to block a vote on the tax plan in the Senate last week, said he was grateful for Cagle’s support.
“I’m excited that the lieutenant governor felt the pressure of the movement,” said Williams, also a GOP candidate for the state’s top job. “And I’m excited for the citizens of Georgia to get a tax break without the Delta incentive being held over their head.”
“This is what true leadership looks like,” the NRA tweeted Wednesday evening. “Thank you Lt. Governor Casey Cagle for standing up for NRA’s 5 million members.”
Even staunch backers privately said there was little chance of salvaging the break on jet fuel.
The House overwhelmingly approved the tax bill last week — before Delta cut ties with the NRA — and House Speaker David Ralston said he was still smarting over that stance.
“The timing of the decision by Delta couldn’t have been worse,” Ralston said.
Analysis | Delta tried to find the middle ground on gun control — only to discover there wasnt one
He added: “I was hoping there would be a compromise, which is why we suggested putting the milk back in the bottle and start over. I don’t know that that’s going to happen.”
While bemoaning the role election-year politics played in the tax fight, the governor said the mess could have been avoided.
“Delta made a statement that caused this dispute to erupt,” Deal said. “There are a lot of people who share the blame for what happened here. I am not putting the blame just on those who have been outspoken on the issue.”
Gov. Nathan Deal said he would reluctantly sign a tax bill. The deal cuts the state income tax and strips Delta Air Lines of a lucrative break. Senate Republicans voted to strip a $50 million jet fuel tax break from the bill. The break was removed after Delta severed ties with the NRA. Deal said he wanted to vote for general cuts and would still seek a tax break for Delta.
JAMES SALZER James Salzer has covered state government and politics in Georgia since 1990.