Lawmakers in Georgia’s Republican-controlled House and Senate are so committed to the National Rifle Association that they punished the state’s largest private employer this week for ending a discount program for members of the gun rights group.
On Thursday, the House and Senate in Atlanta passed a broad tax relief bill that stripped out a tax exemption on jet fuel present in an earlier version of the bill.
If there was any doubt that the move was a direct response to Delta’s cutting ties with the NRA, State House Speaker David Ralston made it clear that the issues were linked. “I hope they are better at flying airplanes than timing PR announcements,” he said.
Governor Nathan Deal has said he will sign the bill, but he has also criticized legislators for jeopardizing Georgia’s business-friendly reputation. “Disagreement on key issues of our time should not prevent Georgians from keeping more of their hard-earned dollars,” he said Wednesday.
Deal, who will leave office early next year due to term limits, is not running for office though. And the Georgia Republicans who are see Delta’s NRA decision as a chance to score political points.
In announcing its decision to end flight discounts for people flying to the NRA’s annual conference, Delta said it was affirming its “neutral status in the current national debate over gun control” after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. But Republicans such as Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle, who is running to succeed Deal, saw nothing neutral about the move.
Delta didn’t budge, and now the company has lost what would have been a $40 million tax break. But the long-term damage could be more to Georgia than the airline. The state is currently courting Amazon and and experts say the tiff with Delta could keep the tech giant away.
There’s no indication that Delta is considering any drastic moves in response to the capricious punishment, but that hasn’t stopped some governors from suggesting that the company pack its bags and relocate.