National News

Delta Tax Cut Is Imperiled After Airline Shuns NRA

Posted February 26, 2018 10:37 p.m. EST
Updated February 26, 2018 10:40 p.m. EST

The lieutenant governor in Georgia threatened on Monday to kill a proposed lucrative tax cut for Delta Air Lines after the company eliminated a discount fare program for the National Rifle Association over the weekend.

The move by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who presides over the state Senate, immediately put the legislation in jeopardy and put him at loggerheads with other top state officials, including the governor, who had championed the tax deal. The showdown between one of Georgia’s most powerful politicians and one of the state’s largest employers was the latest clash in a national debate around guns after the deadly school shooting in Florida this month.

Cagle, a Republican, fired the salvo at Delta on Twitter on Monday afternoon, saying that the Atlanta-based company must restore its program with the NRA. “Corporations cannot attack conservatives and expect us not to fight back,” Cagle, who had expressed his support for the bill this month, said on Twitter.

Cagle, who received an A+ grade by the NRA when he was running for his position in 2006, did not return a call seeking comment Monday evening. As the Senate president, Cagle wields significant influence over legislation and how it flows through the Senate, where Republicans hold a 37 to 19 majority over Democrats.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Nathan Deal, who had said the tax bill was necessary to encourage airlines to open direct routes from Georgia to destinations around the world, did not return an email seeking comment.

Other Republicans in the Legislature also on Monday pulled back their support for the bill, which would grant a $50 million sales tax exemption on jet fuel, primarily benefiting Delta. Among the new critics was the House speaker, David Ralston, who said Monday that he was disappointed with Delta and wished it had announced the decision before the House approved the tax bill Thursday. The legislation moved the next day to the Senate, where it seemed to have broad support.

But on Saturday, that support all but evaporated after Delta announced it had eliminated a discount fare program for travelers to attend the NRA’s 2018 annual meeting in May. The airline, which had come under growing pressure from its customers and others to cut ties with the gun group, said its decision “reflects the airline’s neutral status in the current national debate over gun control amid recent school shootings.”

Delta said in a statement Saturday that it supported the Second Amendment but has refrained from political issues before. The airline noted that it withdrew financial support of a New York production of “Julius Caesar” last summer because it depicted the assassination of a President Donald Trump-like Roman ruler.

In the days after the shooting massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, more than a dozen companies, including MetLife Insurance, Symantec and Enterprise, cut ties with the NRA. Many were being threatened with boycotts over the deals and discounts they had offered to the gun group’s members.

Also Monday, FedEx made an unusual move by declaring its opposition to the NRA’s stance on gun policy and safety while saying it “does not and will not deny service or discriminate against any legal entity regardless of their policy positions or political views.”

FedEx said the NRA was one of hundreds of organizations whose members receive discounts on shipping rates. It also pushed for “urgent action” from local, state and federal politicians to prevent future mass shootings.

“FedEx opposes assault rifles being in the hands of civilians,” the company said in a statement. “While we strongly support the constitutional right of U.S. citizens to own firearms subject to appropriate background checks, FedEx views assault rifles and large-capacity magazines as an inherent potential danger to schools, workplaces, and communities when such weapons are misused.”