ATLANTA -- A fuel tax break for Delta and other airlines in Georgia has gone awry after Delta severed its ties with the National Rifle Association. The tax break is potentially worth tens of millions of dollars to Delta.
Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, a candidate for the Republican nomination for Governor, says he will block the tax break unless Delta changes its mind.
Delta has lobbied for the fuel tax break, which had been sailing through the legislature.
But this weekend, Delta announced it was withdrawing airfare discounts for NRA members attending the NRA's national convention. In a statement, Delta said it wanted to "refrain from entering the current national debate (over guns) and to demonstrate respect for our customers and employees on both sides.”
Georgia House Speaker David Ralston issued a statement saying he was "disappointed that certain corporations have chosen to engage in a sensitive debate by vilifying law-abiding supporters of Second Amendment rights. Likewise, I am troubled that this information was not made public until after the House of Representatives passed," a bill including the jet fuel tax break.
In the state Senate, conservative lawmakers expressed astonishment at Delta's stance, and its timing. "The major question is, why did you do it to the NRA? When the NRA has been good to you?" asked state Sen. Lee Anderson (R-Columbia County).
Anderson, Ralston and Cagle are among those asking – should they support a fuel tax break worth tens of millions of dollars for Delta?
Governor candidate: 'I will kill' legislation that benefits Delta after NRA split
"Certainly the NRA is an organization that feels very strongly as I do around second amendment and I think it’s time that we take a stand," Cagle said Monday.
"I just hope they haven’t thrown the baby out with the wash by picking another battle in singling out the NRA with this," said state Sen. Greg Kirk (R-Americus).
The airline fuel tax break is part of a big tax cut package backed by Governor Nathan Deal. Several state senators told us they are hoping Delta will reconsider its stance with the NRA before they vote on the tax bill.
"But we need to see how we can modify this bill if necessary, or see what Delta can offer us in return," said Senate Finance Committee chairman Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome). "I would like them to go back to where they were before. And go to the previous policy."
"I’m confident that Delta wants to do the right thing and I look forward to hearing from them," Cagle said.