The Georgia state House passed an amendment Wednesday that would strip Delta Air Lines of a multimillion-dollar tax break after the company blasted the state’s new election laws.
Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law last week a bill overhauling his state’s election procedures designed to increase security and address issues that surrounded the 2020 election. Delta initially supported key measures of the legislation after it was signed, then backtracked days later amid calls for boycotts pushed by left-wing publications.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian said the new election law “does not match Delta’s values.” Republicans in the state House, angered by Bastian’s sudden flip on the election overhaul, hit back at the company by voting to strip it of a jet fuel tax break worth over $35 million a year, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“They like our public policy when we’re doing things that benefit them,” House Speaker David Ralston said. “You don’t feed a dog that bites your hand. You got to keep that in mind sometimes.”
The measure stalled in the Senate where lawmakers were uncomfortable with escalating the fight and others did not want to punish Delta while it is recovering from business hits taken during the pandemic. The hesitancy frustrated some GOP lawmakers, according to the Journal-Constitution.
Delta is the largest private employer in the state and has lost the tax break several times in the past for picking fights with the GOP legislature. The airline lost the tax break in 2015 when its then CEO taunted legislators, calling them “chicken” for not wanting to raise taxes for infrastructure improvements. The company lost it again in 2018 for stripping the NRA of a discount in response to a mass shooting.
In a statement immediately after the law was signed, Delta expressed support for key parts of the legislation while saying that more work needed to be done.
“Over the past several weeks, Delta engaged extensively with state elected officials in both parties to express our strong view that Georgia must have a fair and secure election process, with broad voter participation and equal access to the polls. The legislation signed this week improved considerably during the legislative process, and expands weekend voting, codifies Sunday voting and protects a voter’s ability to cast an absentee ballot without providing a reason,” Delta said in a memo. “Nonetheless, we understand concerns remain over other provisions in the legislation, and there continues to be work ahead in this important effort.”
Days later, CEO Ed Bastian issued a statement blasting Georgia over the voting reforms, calling the final bill “unacceptable” and saying it “does not match Delta’s values.”
“Last week, the Georgia legislature passed a sweeping voting reform act that could make it harder for many Georgians, particularly those in our Black and Brown communities, to exercise their right to vote,” Bastian claimed. “Since the bill’s inception, Delta joined other major Atlanta corporations to work closely with elected officials from both parties, to try and remove some of the most egregious measures from the bill. We had some success in eliminating the most suppressive tactics that some had proposed.”
“However, I need to make it crystal clear that the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values,” he added.